The new Cube Stereo 140 is one of the best value mountain bikes we’ve seen this season. For $4K there’s a lot to like about it on paper, and after a few weeks riding we’ve found it equally as impressive.
Watch the full video review below.
The Stereo is a 140mm travel bike with a 150mm travel fork and 27.5” wheels. That means it’s here for a good time with plenty of travel for getting rowdy and smaller diameter wheels for a playful ride. The carbon front end is paired to an aluminium rear end; you could say it’s the best of two worlds, the stiffness and lively nature of carbon with impact resistant and lesser expensive material aluminium.
At 13.5kg on the scales, it’s lighter than we’d expect for a bike at this price point.
Chunky frame with a high-end appearance.
We like the overbuilt construction of this bike and the huge carbon tubing – the downtube is enormous – and the way the linkage bolts are hidden from view, accessed via the inside of the frame, it gives the bike a sharp and high-end image.
Frame geometry wise, the Stereo doesn’t stray too far from what we are used to from similar bikes from major players like the Giant Trance, GT Force, Specialized Stumpjumper and so on with a reasonably roomy front end and short 425mm chainstays. A 66.5-degree head angle strikes a balance between twitchy and sluggish.
Now let’s look at the parts, we keep saying it, but for $4k it’s highly appealing.
A Shimano SLX/XT drivetrain and Deore brakes are more than up to the task, and the Raceface single-ring cranks are a damn sight more suitable to Australian conditions than the double chainring version option of this bike sold in Europe – phew! Though it does look like the long-cage rear derailleur is left on to suit the dual ring option, no biggie.
Rims are 30mm wide, the chunky Schwalbe tyres are tubeless ready, but it’ll require additional parts. So, get the bike shop to chuck in some tubeless rim tape, valves and sealant, and you’re set. An essential upgrade to let the bike live up to its real potential.
Suspension wise, the FOX fork and shock are right on the money. While the Rhythm 34 does feel a little less composed than the higher level FOX forks, it’s still super supple and sensitive, and the three position rear shock gives excellent control over how you wish the bike to behave when pedalled, a nifty feature not often seen at this price point.
The Stereo has a dropper post too, see, it really has all the ingredients for a proper thrashing.
We had many great rides on the Stereo on our local trails; it’s a lively ride with rapid steering. Compared to many 29er trail bikes we’ve been riding, the smaller diameter wheels on the Stereo make it a blast to muck around in the jump park too, taking off and landing with high precision.
The 27.5” wheels might be a compromise to some on super rough and fast terrain when compared to a 29er, but we think they make up for it in the tight singletrack and fun sections of the trail. That’s why we believe the Stereo would be an excellent option for the type of rider who likes to ride aggressively, has the terrain that requires generous suspension travel and isn’t afraid of getting airborne.
Convert it to tubeless, give the cables a trim, and you’re good to go.
Praxis Works’ C32 Mountain wheels are the Californian brand’s first foray into the carbon wheel market, and you can read a bit more information about the history of these wheels and what you can expect out of the box in our First Bite.
How did the C32’s ride?
The Praxis Works C32 Mountain wheels ride exactly as you’d expect from an all-mountain carbon wheelset, stiff and direct. Moving from an alloy wheelset onto the C32’s, the difference in stiffness is immediately noticeable when pushing through corners, or trying to track a straight line through rough terrain.
Where on an alloy wheelset you feel a slight amount of flex pushing the bike into a corner, the C32’s go exactly where you point them, so be ready to hold on tight!
The sensation is much the same through rough terrain. When you hop on the C32’s from an alloy wheelset, their stiffness and directness mean if you can hold on, the wheels will track a precise line without flexing and twisting, which is a sensation you don’t realise is happening until you ride a wheelset like the C32s.
Whilst the extra stiffness is appreciated when laying down the watts, or keeping your line to the millimetre in a corner, it takes time to get used to the C32’s stiffness, as their lack of deflection and absorption of trail chatter requires a bit more of a forceful hand to stay on track when you first start riding them, where on a softer and flexier aluminium wheelset the wheels will absorb trail chatter, and can also settle the bike if it your line wavers.
If you’re confident in your line selection and bike control, you’ll feel a lot faster on the C32’s quickly, but if technical terrain isn’t your forte then you might want to run slightly lower tyre pressures, to compensate for the C32’s stiffness.
They’re not too much lighter than many alloy wheelsets out there, do they feel faster?
Despite not weighing in at the lighter end of the carbon wheelset spectrum at 1761 grams for the set, these wheels are meant to take a battering, they’ve got a 32mm internal rim width, and we discovered throughout testing that they are indeed incredibly strong.
When you want to get up to speed however, the C32’s are very crisp on the uptake, offering faster acceleration and rolling speed than their weight might suggest. The C32’s replaced a set of Bontrager Line Elite wheels on a Trek Slash 9.9, and whilst they’re only a tad over 100 grams lighter than the Bontragers, they feel much faster to accelerate out of corners, or up a pinch climb when starting from a low speed.
Part of this eagerness comes from the stiffness of the rims, and part of it the responsiveness of the Industry Nine hubs, which were a real standout.
Why were the hubs a standout?
Our C32’s were laced onto a set of Industry Nine Torch hubs. Both hubs spun smooth for the entirety of the test, despite most of the testing taking place in atrocious Sydney riding conditions, and the engagement on the rear was excellent, adding to the C32’s ability to quickly get back up to pace out of a corner or on a punchy climb.
In terms of servicing the hubs, after a few weeks of solid riding, we whipped the wheels out of the bike to see how the freehub internals have been holding up, and to gauge how easily serviceable they are.
To access the hub bearing and freehubs, it’s a matter of pulling off the end caps but blimey they are tight! We pulled and pulled on them for quite some time but the o-rings lock the end caps on very securely indeed. We ended up having to crack out a bearing puller tool kit to pop off the end cap it was so tight.
The next step was to gently pull off the freehub body, but be warned the pawls and springs are not held together like many hubs are, resulting in a pawl flying out onto the work bench. These little objects are not what you want going missing on the floor; our advice would be to be gentle and careful when removing.
Once inside the internals of the freehub we expected a cleaner mechanism considering the extra-tight seals, the grease was a little dirty and there was evidence of moisture (the bike had just been washed).
What about the overall maintenance?
From a maintenance perspective, we’ve ridden the C32’s hard for a couple of months now, and the wheels haven’t needed any time in the truing stand, with the spokes remaining the same tension as the day we picked them up- that’s a thumbs up in that department!
Should I be worried about breaking a set of C32’s?
During our testing of the C32’s we had two incidents, both where we went into a clearly audible rock versus carbon duel, and to our disbelief there was no damage to be seen, and the tyre also remained intact and inflated both times.
Had these incidents occurred on an alloy wheelset, we’re almost certain we would’ve dented or cracked the rim, or at the very least suffered a flat tyre.
If they break and it’s not my fault, what’s the warranty like?
If you do happen to get unlucky (and judging by our testing we think you would have to be very unlucky indeed!) and break a set of C32’s, Praxis offer a discounted rate to re-lace the hub to a new rim, which can be arranged through your local shop.
The wheels also come with a two-year manufacturer’s warranty against defects, so you’re covered there as well.
Not really. The C32’s were subjected to a cruel test period and they remained in prime condition throughout. There was no loss of spoke tension, the wheels are still straight as an arrow and the hubs are spinning as smooth as they did on day one, with the crisp engagement you would expect from an Industry Nine hub.
We discussed in the First Bite that the practicality element of these wheels is a big selling point, with their external nipples and J-bend spokes, and despite not having to true the wheels, or replace a spoke, in the event that you do have to do some maintenance, these features will make your life (or your mechanic’s) much easier.
Who are the C32 Mountain wheels for?
The C32 Mountain wheels would be a good upgrade for a wide variety of riders, from casual trail riders through to enduro racers. Their excellent balance of weight, strength, stiffness and serviceability make them a great option if you’re looking to upgrade your wheels, and we’re confident after riding the C32’s back to back with several other wheelsets that you’ll notice the difference on the trail immediately.
Are they worth it?
How long is a piece of string? Sure, these wheels are an expensive upgrade, but by no means are they the most expensive out there, and the performance benefits are there compared to a standard aluminium wheelset.
We’ve enjoyed our time on the C32’s immensely, now to figure out a way to not give them back!
The new 36 lineup doesn’t feature any dramatic changes from its predecessor, however smaller adjustments should only improve on the excellent performance of the range.
We reviewed the last version of the Float 36 RC2, and you can read our in depth thoughts here.
Now, let’s see what’s changed and some new offerings of this iconic product!
MORE THAN AN ENDURO RACE FORK:
We took the award-winning 36, integrated our EVOL technology, updated the air spring curves and damper tune to improve performance across the board. Between wheel size, damper, and axle options, the 36 offers a wide range of options to fit your all-mountain and enduro needs.
• New FLOAT EVOL air spring
• FIT HSC/LSC, FIT4 and FIT GRIP three position damper options
• 15QRx110 mm, 15QRx100 mm, or 15/20 mm convertible thru-axle • Travel options:
27.5” – 150, 160, 170 mm
29” – 150, 160 mm
26” – 100 mm (831), 160, 180 mm
• 1.5” tapered or 1-1/8” (26” only) steerer tube
• E-Bike-specific chassis available
• Factory Series models feature Genuine Kashima Coat
• Performance Elite models feature black ano upper tubes • Matte Black
Small Tweaks Make Big Changes on the Trail:
A more linear air spring curve gives EVOL forks plushness off the top, extra mid-stroke support, and more tunable bottom-out progression.
• EVOL is Extra Volume in the negative air spring
• Creates a more linear spring curve through first 25%of travel
• Increases small bump sensitivity
• Greater mid-stroke support
• More tunable bottom-out progression
• Used in MY2018 32, 34, 36, and 40 forks
FLOAT EVOL: Self-equalizing positive/negative air spring system:
• Utilizes our patented FLOAT shock transfer port technology, first introduced in our circa 1999 FLOAT shock
• New EVOL air spring has fewer dynamic seals
• Less feedback through handlebar
• Highly tunable with air volume spacers – Adjust the amount of mid stroke and bottom out resistance
Using our proven Championship- and award- winning FIT sealed cartridge design, HSC/LSC is our most advanced damper.
• High- and low-speed compression adjust
• Rebound adjust
• Low friction seal head design
• Dual circuit rebound allows more controlled return from hard hits and quicker recovery from successive impacts
• New damper oil with lubricating PTFE for improved compression and rebound flow
Our patented FIT4 (FOX Isolated Technology) closed cartridge system provides three on-the-fly compression damping positions—Open, Medium, and Firm—to adapt to varying trail conditions.
• Three on-the-fly compression damping positions
• 22 clicks of additional low-speed compression adjust in the Open mode
• Low friction seal head design
• Dual circuit rebound allows more controlled return from hard hits and quicker recovery from successive impacts
• Updated tune
• New damper oil with lubricating PTFE for improved compression and rebound flow
Inspired by moto fork damping systems, FOX’s award- winning GRIP damper uses our FIT sealed cartridge technology combined with a coil-sprung, internal floating piston. The system allows excess oil to purge through a specially designed port at the top of the damper to maintain consistent damping and increase durability. Performance Series forks provide Open, Medium, and Firm modes with additional micro-adjust between settings.
• FIT-based sealed cartridge damper with self- bleeding moto design
Wow. Polygon have come out with something completely new here, a real step away from what everyone else is doing in terms of travel, frame and suspension design.
Everyone loves geometry, so you can check out the Square One’s angles below.
We definitely weren’t expecting Polygon to come out with a 180mm, 27.5″ bike with this sort of design, but we’re seriously excited to get our hands on one. Whilst the aesthetics won’t float everyone’s boats, its how the bike rides that counts, and from a glance at the spec and geometry it looks like an absolute beast of a bike.
Read on to see what Polygon have to say about the Square One EX range.
Polygon Bikes believes that each of our customers want one bike that is easy to be maintained and can be ridden anywhere.
The quest to deliver new and special products to our consumers led to the collaboration between Polygon and NAILD. Both brands shared a goal to bring the best riding experiences possible to our customers. Not only did Polygon and NAILD want to create a “one bike” quiver-killer, we wanted to redefine how people classify mountain bikes with a truly capable machine.
The Square One EX Series is a departure from the old way of classifying bikes and creates a new paradigm where travel no longer determines discipline.
“The NAILD suspension design works in conjunction with Polygon’s frame construction to give a ride unlike anything else. We designed the bike to have a short rear end for tackling technical terrain and to provide quick cornering thanks to the elevated chainstay that is unique to the NAILD R3ACT- 2Play Suspension System”, said Zendy Renan, Product Development Manager for Polygon Bikes.
Square One EX acts as an extension of rider’s movement – body mechanics are one of the critical aspects we focused on during the development process of NAILD’s concept about vertical wheel path and the use of shaft systems.
All Square One EX frames are built around 27.5 wheels and feature a full ACX carbon frame with 180mm suspension travel.
Two models will be available: the Square One EX8 and our top of the line model, the Square One EX9.
The pre-orders of Square One EX 9 is accepted now and the bikes will be available in June 2017. Check the full infomation about Square One EX at www.polygonbikes.com.
Read on for our full review, or watch the video below for a discussion about the S-Works Enduro.
The 2017 Specialized Enduro 29″ keeps on pushing too. Not only is it a 29er with 165mm of travel, but it has a hole in the downtube to store spares and suspension from a company that has only been producing mountain bike products for a handful of years.
If that’s not taking a leap in search of the next best thing, we don’t know what is. For a bit more a breakdown on new Enduro frame and the changes, check out our introductory piece.
Which wheels size are we testing?
The Enduro has been available in multiple wheel size options for years, but in 2017 you have the third option, with the 29er version also capable of running the 6Fattie format (27.5 x 3.0″ tyres). We only had a brief opportunity to run the Enduro with 6Fattie wheels, and so nearly all our testing was done in a 29er guise.
Is the Enduro fully enduro?
The Enduro 29″ is most definitely an Enduro race bike, you only have to look at Curtis Keene and Graves tearing it up on the EWS to see that. But unlike some 160mm/170mm bikes, which can feel like pure descenders with climbing abilities barely salvaged by virtue of low gearing and suspension lockouts, the Enduro still aims to be a bike that caters to a wider variety of riding than just flirting with the limit on downhill tracks.
The Enduro still aims to be a bike that caters to a wider variety of riding than flirting with the limit
What are the Enduro’s strengths?
The Enduro’s biggest strength is its incredible versatility for a bike with 165mm of rear travel. Despite being well up there as an Enduro race bike, the Enduro is still a hoot to ride on relatively tame singletrack.
For one thing, the beast can climb. The steep 76-degree seat tube angle assists seated pedalling on more sedate trails, and even in a size large the Enduro doesn’t feel like a boat. The geometry doesn’t go to the same extremes as some new-school enduro bikes, which means a more versatile ride. For instance, the top tube in a size large of 600mm and 66 degree head angle is significantly less extreme than a large Whyte G-160, which has a 655.9mm top tube and a 65 degree head angle.
On the descents, the Enduro 29er crushes every 29” stereotype out there. If you’ve got a riding buddy who still insists on bagging 29ers as being boring, awful to corner, and afraid of jumps, then put them on this thing for a run down the hill.
Specialized worked hard to keep the rear end short (430mm stays with this much travel is pretty impressive) which brings the big wheeler to life. It feels more nimble than many 160mm 27.5” bikes out there, but never does it feel unstable or too short out back either. Even on some of Thredbo’s more rowdy offerings, where a lot of testing took place, we felt calm aboard the Enduro.
Perhaps the only barrier to the Enduro 29’s descending abilities is its rubber. The front tyre is just too skinny in our opinion for a bike travelling at this pace, and bigger rubber would enhance both cornering confidence and forgiveness when ploughing the front end through rough terrain. We found the combination of the stiff Ohlins fork, Roval wheels and narrow Butcher 2.3” front tyre a bit harsh sometimes – bung on a 2.5″ tyre.
It differs from the 29” model in that you almost can’t run out of traction
Speaking of rubber, the Enduro 6Fattie, with its 3.0″ tyres, is a very different ride. It differs from the 29” model in that you almost can’t run out of traction, but we did find ourselves riding it less aggressively than the 29er. With the lower pressures of the big tyres and a lower bottom bracket (the bottom bracket height drops by 5mm when you run 27.5×3.00” tyres), barrelling through rock gardens or any harsh impacts can lead to striking your rims, so we tended to select more gentle lines in these sections of trail.
The only other downside to the seemingly limitless traction and trail dampening is in high speed bermed corners, especially droppy ones, where there is potential to for the tyre to squirm and burp air.
What are the Enduro’s weaknesses?
Not a great deal. As mentioned above, when steamrolling through technical terrain in the 29” configuration, at times the narrow front tyre meant the front-end felt a bit harsh. However, we were reluctant to drop tyres pressure or soften up the fork, because the Enduro encourages you to ride so fast that we felt much safer coming into sections hot with a high, stable front end as opposed to the front-end diving or slamming the rims into rocks. We do think that a wider front tyre at lower pressure, and more fine tuning of the fork could address this issue.
We’d also like to see the bike come with a dropper post that has more travel. 125mm on a size large is ok, but 150mm drop would be much better, to get that centre of gravity lower when things get properly steep.
Is the spec worth the money?
There’s no hiding from the fact that the S-Works Enduro 29/6Fattie costs $11000. With that in mind however, you’re getting the best of the best throughout.
The full Eagle XX1 groupset is the perfect setup, not just for this style of bike, but for mountain biking in general. The range is massive, and it didn’t miss a trick. SRAM also provide the brakes, Guide RSCs, and whilst they come equipped with a 200mm rotor on the front and a 180mm rotor on the rear, we were finding they had some fade on the long runs down Thredbo, and so we’d suggest swapping the organic pads out for sintered pads. If you’re really keen, you could even modify the brakeset like we have on our Canyon Strive, by hooking up the RSC levers with the more powerful Avid Code Caliper.
The wheels are of course from Specialized’s wheel subsidiary, Roval. We found the carbon rims stiff and direct, and the 30mm internal rim width is ideal. Keep an eye on the spoke tension though, as after a few days of many runs at Thredbo, the rear spokes were getting loose. Despite the abuse, both wheels ran true after weeks of riding.
Finally, the Enduro is finished off with a lovely cockpit comprising of a stubby Syntace ‘MegaForce’ stem and an S-Works handlebar. Despite costing the big bucks, you’ll really struggle to get a more premium spec than the S-Works Enduro.
Is the Ohlins suspension really that good?
Specialized’s partnership with Ohlins suspension gives a certain gravitas to the brand – these Swedish suspension experts have an immense reputation – the Enduro S-Works gets Ohlins front and rear. We’ve had positive experiences with the RXF 34 in the past, so we were interested to see whether the beefier RXF 36 would step things up a notch.
It didn’t disappoint. With 36mm stanchions as well as the one-piece crown/steerer tube, it’s an incredibly stiff fork. In terms of damping performance, multiple testers reported the suspension feeling dead and dull when rolling around the carpark, but out on the trail the fork feels balanced and supportive. It really comes alive once you’re hammering.
The fork has dual air chamber adjustments. There’s a main chamber, for setting your overall spring rate, then a separate ‘ramp up’ chamber to adjust latter part of the spring curve. Another feature we appreciated that carried over from the RXF 34 was the compression adjustments on the top of the left fork leg, which can be used as a quasi-lockout for long climbs. Is the fork any better than a FOX 36 or RockShox Pike? It’s certainly at least on par, and the uniquely burly one-piece crown/steerer and tool-free ramp up adjustment do have real benefits.
The RXF 36 is paired with the Ohlins STX22 in the rear, which gets Specialized’s Auto Sag feature. Like all Ohlins shocks, there’s actually a very limited band of damping adjustment, with only a few clicks of compression and rebound to toy with, plus a ‘climb switch’ to firm things right up. The compression adjustment is very subtle too which, coupled with the absence of adjustment descriptions on the shock, made setup a bit tricky at first, so dialling in a base setting took longer than usual.
Once we had a base setting, however, the STX felt supportive and stable in the rear, and we didn’t feel any harsh bottoming out throughout the course of our testing, despite some casing action going down when our ambitions exceeded our abilities at Thredbo.
We’d like to say that everything was 100% peachy with the Ohlins gear, but we did have some problems with the rear shock. It lost air, and we had issues with air passing from the positive to the negative chamber, which caused the shock to become ‘stuck down’ and remain compressed!
To Specialized’s credit, a new shock was on its way to us immediately. Specialized told us that they haven’t seen the issues that we were having before, so here’s hoping they were genuine outliers and moving forwards Ohlins suspension is as good as we know it can be.
Who is this bike for?
The Enduro 29/6Fattie is a bike that could service a far wider range of riders than just the Enduro race crowd. Specialized have refined long travel 29” geometry over the years with the Enduro models, and the 2017 edition does a remarkable job of hiding the big hoops in a geometry that feels lively, but also stable when the going is fast and rough.
In the 6Fattie configuration, one word that we found ourselves using continually was control. If you’re not the craziest rider out there, jumping into rock gardens and slapping turns with reckless abandon, and you’re looking for something that is predictable in just about every situation, then the S-Works Enduro 6Fattie is hard to look past.
Due to its hard-charging attitude and well-balanced angles, the Enduro 29″ is obviously a bike that fits the bill as an enduro race machine, but it could also be a great option for a rider looking for something confidence inspiring on the descents that doesn’t lose its zippiness on more sedate trails.
We’re obviously testing the crème de la crème model here, so if you’re tossing up between a mid-range Enduro or perhaps a Stumpjumper, we would highly recommend going for a test ride.
We started the review by talking about how Specialized are a brand renowned for taking risks with their products and moving the sport in new directions. After spending some quality time on the new Enduro, it’s clear the future is only getting better for mountain bikers.
Joining the likes of Specialized, Trek and Evil at the long travel 29” party, the new Range offers the same fit principles they debuted with the Optic. The ideas are, regardless of what wheel size you choose, the fit and handling will be as close to identical as possible. You can read more about the concept in our interview with the bike’s designer, Owen Pemberton, here.
The 29” variant comes with a little less travel (160mm front and 150mm rear) to accommodate for the larger wheels, and the 27.5” wheeled machine, which packs 170mm of travel in the front and 160mm in the rear, adopts a slacker head angle and longer stem to accommodate for the difference in reach.
We’ll save you the speech about how this bike has been made longer, lower and slacker than its predecessor to enhance descending confidence – we reckon you know the drill by now. What is more interesting is the employment of Norco’s Gravity Tune geometry, where the rear centre measurement gets longer as you move up the sizes, growing from 430mm to 440mm.
In Australia, only the second-from-top in the lineup Norco C9.2 and C7.2 will be available, both retailing for $7299. This pricing puts the C9.2 in the same price range as bikes like Trek’s Slash 9.8, and Specialized’s Enduro Elite Carbon 29”. We’ll be putting together some comparative content over the coming months related to this segment, so watch this space! This is a pretty awesome segment, in our opinion, the next frontier of long-travel bikes.
We’ve been lucky enough to receive a fresh Range C9.2 that’s ready to hit the trails, so let’s take a bit of a closer look at some of the finer details.
That’s our first impressions of the new Range C9.2, read on for the official word from Norco on the new range of Ranges, and keep an eye out for a full review of the C9.2 once we log some miles aboard this exciting beast.
Below you’ll find an interesting round-table chat with some of Norco’s big-wigs, all about the Range.
Introduced today, the 2017 Norco Range Carbon features a new frame redesigned around both 650b and 29” wheels, with updated modern Enduro geometry and improved suspension kinematics.
Building on the best qualities of the previous generation Range, our engineers applied their evolved geometry philosophy to redesign the frame from the ground up and introduce a 29er with the same fit and nearly identical handling characteristics as the Killer B.
The result is a geometry that is longer, lower, and slacker, with a new A.R.T. Suspension system with improved performance that is slightly more progressive. The new design is stronger than ever, borrowing elements such as the head tube design and rear derailleur hanger from the Norco Aurum.
“We looked at the way Enduro bikes are being used – yes, they’re pedaled to the top, but essentially in an Enduro event they go through four or five downhill races over a weekend. This is a bike that’s going to be ridden hard, so we took everything we learned from the Aurum, which is the strongest bike we’d ever made, and employed it on the new Range.” – Owen Pemberton, Senior Design Engineer
To achieve the renowned fit and handling of the Range Killer B in a 29er platform, the 29er is designed around the same rear centre lengths, with a longer front centre, steeper head tube angle, shorter stem, and 10mm less travel front and rear to offset the characteristics of the larger wheels.
When stem length is incorporated into stack and reach (a measurement Norco engineers call Reach Plus and Stack Plus), the fit between the two platforms is identical.
The Range Carbon 29er is available in the widest possible size range without compromising its geometry, fit, and handling. Whether you prefer the quick acceleration and playfulness of 650b wheels or the improved rollover and momentum of a 29er – the Range Carbon offers riders choice without compromise.
Apart from the fact that there’s a whole heap of absolute shredders out there who also happen to be women, more and more women are getting into mountain biking every year, which is awesome to see.
It’s also great to see bike companies starting to put more resources behind female specific models, and in the case of Giant Bicycles, an entirely separate company for women’s bicycles, components and apparel- Liv Cycling.
We’ve got a Liv Hail 1 on test, a 160mm enduro race bike, but before we jump into the First Bite, let’s learn a little bit more about Liv, and what makes them unique in the women’s market.
I haven’t heard of Liv, what’s it all about?
Liv Cycling was launched in 2014 as a standalone brand to Giant Bicycles focusing entirely on women’s specific bikes, equipment and apparel. Rather topically, the first ever Liv specific store is about to open in Vancouver!
For 2017, Liv have signed Kiwi shredder Raewyn Morrison to race the EWS aboard the Liv Hail Advanced, which is the only female specific 160mm bike currently on the market.
What makes the Hail 1 female specific, or is it just the fancy colour scheme?
Thankfully, the entire Liv range shows a real attention to detail through bikes with genuine differences to their Giant counterparts- you won’t simply see colour changes with different grips and saddles here! For a bit more of an overview of the entire Liv range, check out our 2017 range highlights piece.
All Liv products follow their ‘3F’ principal, which encompasses fit, form and function. We think that all bikes should follow these principals, regardless of the gender they’re designed for, but the video below goes into Liv’s ‘3F’ mission and its centrality to all of their products in a bit more detail.
Another aspect that makes Liv Bicycles truly female specific is their use of the Global Body Dimension Database.
What’s the Global Body Dimension Database- is my head going to start hurting?
Thankfully, despite the fancy name the Global Body Dimension Database is pretty simple.
The database provides Liv with information on the average body dimensions of women around the world. Average arm, torso and leg lengths give Liv essential measurements to consider when designing new bikes.
Where does the Global Body Dimension Database information come from?
We must admit that initially reading about the Global Body Dimension Database we were a bit sceptical about the data, but Liv’s website gives a clear explanation of where they source the information, its relevance in their bike designs and its limitations. Read below for the summarised version of what the data encompasses.
The Global Body Dimension Database includes over 250 individual body measurements from men and women of nine different nationalities. From this data set, Liv can gather information on things like stature, inseam, torso length, shoulder breadth, arm length, hand length, hip breadth, ischia (sit bone) distance, weight, and strength that allow them to uncover fundamental differences between men’s and women’s bodies.
Liv’s ‘function’ design principal is also an interesting point of difference to their Giant parent company. From the data Liv have collected, they’ve changed the material layup of Liv bikes compared to comparable Giant models to make the bike stronger and stiffer where it needs to be, and lighter where possible. These changes are made relevant to where women are putting forces through the frame and where they aren’t. Interesting stuff indeed!
Getting back to the Hail 1 we’ve got on review, the obvious comparative model in the Giant range is the Reign, however there’s some key differences that demonstrates the Hail 1 is an entirely different product designed specifically for women.
What are some differences between the Liv Hail and the Giant Reign then?
The Giant Reign has a head angle of 65 degrees, in comparison with the Hail’s 66-degree head angle. Liv say that their data indicates that by making the bike slightly steeper in the front end, it will be easier for women to manoeuvre the Hail up and over obstacles due to their generally shorter upper torsos.
Another point of difference in comparison to the Reign is the higher bottom bracket height. Liv say that their data has indicated that the benefit of a higher bottom bracket in allowing a female rider to pedal over rough terrain with more ease is an attribute they wanted to incorporate on the Hail.
The Hail also has more standover clearance than Reign models in the same size, and yes, female specific finishing touches are present such as the Liv Contact Upright saddle.
Are there any other differences other than the geometry?
There sure are! The front and rear suspension on the Hail runs a different tune to a Reign or Trance, to specifically accommodate female riders. We’re very interested to see how noticeable the different suspension tune is during testing.
How much does the Hail 1 cost, and what do you get for your dollars?
The Liv Hail 1 retails for $4499, putting it squarely in the budget price point as far as enduro bikes go.
For your cash, you’re getting an aluminium frame (except for the carbon rocker link which comes as standard across all Hail models), RockShox suspension front and rear with a Lyrik RC dual position (130-160mm) fork and Deluxe R shock, and the full SRAM package in the form of an X1 drivetrain and Guide RS brakes.
Giant provide the handlebar and grips, which are a standout item, offering tackiness and a nice profile. The Truvativ Holzfeller stem is a nice touch, and so is the MRP chainguide, something we see as a must for any bike with more than 150mm of travel.
The bashguard is another welcome inclusion, especially on a bike with 160mm of travel, saving your chainring from a walloping should you get a little eager out on the trails.
The Giant dropper post is simple and very mechanic friendly, but we would like to see a 125mm drop specced over the 100mm drop model that comes on the medium sized model we have on test.
The wheels are a nondescript aluminium offering from Giant called the PAM-2, however the tubeless conversion with the Schwalbe tyres was simple and the slightly wider rim width than you see on some house brand wheelsets gives the Schwalbe rubber great shape, so our initial impressions are positive.
Speaking of the tyres, it’s good to see Giant going with the beefier Magic Mary up front paired with the slightly less chunky Hans Dampf out the back to offer predictable traction up front paired with something faster rolling in the rear.
Women’s bikes are often more expensive that a comparable unisex model, does the Liv Hail 1 represent good value?
For under $5000 the Liv Hail 1 packs a fair amount of value and is a bike that can be ridden out of the box with no real weak spots in the components.
Our only complaint would be the lack of piggyback reservoir on the Deluxe R shock, but considering the price and the other nice touches such as the chainguide and bashguard we’ll wait until we get some trail time on the bike before making any hasty judgements.
Where will we be riding the Liv Hail 1?
Everywhere we would normally shred a 160mm bike! Just because the Hail 1 has a lovely colour scheme doesn’t mean it’ll be subjected to anything but the most brutal trails we reserve for testing 160mm bikes.
Stay tuned for our detailed thoughts in a full review soon!
No, YT haven’t introduced another wheelsize, they’ve just decided to abbreviate 27.5″ to plain old 27. What they have introduced though is more options in their acclaimed Jeffsy line up. Now you can buy the Jeffsy in both 29″ and 27.5″ options, in both carbon and aluminium models.
We’re currently testing a Jeffsy CF Comp 2 and loving it, and it’s exciting to see YT offer both wheelsize options for this popular trail bike. Read on for the official word, and be sure to watch the video, although we’re not sure what the nickname ‘doggy’ is all about.
JEFFSY 27 – Size Doesn’t Matter:
It was only last year that YT appeared in the all-mountain market, where they made quite an impression. This segment now sees further growth with the arrival of another model: The JEFFSY 27 is the right choice for those seeking an even more agile and playful bike than the JEFFSY 29 – already one of the most fun-loving 29ers on the market.
When it comes to getting aggressive, JEFFSY 27 follows in the footsteps of its big brother, too: in giving it a little bit of extra travel, the developers made sure this 27.5” bike won ‘t get hung up on rough terrain. It is available with 160mm of travel on the top of the range model, and 150mm on the rest of the line-up. When it comes to suspension travel, the 160mm JEFFSY CF Pro Race is most suited for racing applications, where in addition to pedaling efficiently the bike also needs to have a tad more gravity potential. YT team rider Bryan Regnier will use JEFFSY for several Enduro World Series races this season.
“When choosing the right wheel size for you, your personal preferences, your riding style, and of course also the terrain you ride plays an important role in the decision. Everybody should decide for themselves which wheel size is most appropriate for them. At the end of the day, it’s not about numbers but about how much fun you’re having on your bike. Everything is what you make of it.” Markus Flossmann, CEO.
The carbon frame weighs in at a scant 2300 grams, while its aluminum counterpart tips the scales at 2900 grams. Just like on the JEFFSY 29, a Flip Chip lets you dial in your ride: in the low position, you get an aggressive, 66-degree head angle and a significant BB drop (15mm). Those who climb a lot might prefer the high position, which yields a 75.5-degree effective seat angle.
Naturally, YT’s highly acclaimed V4L suspension layout is also used on JEFFSY 27; it provides great small-bump sensitivity, good mid-stroke support and significant end-stroke progressivity. The BOOST standard was used for the rear axle spacing and the crank in order to provide more space between the chain ring, chain stays, and tire. An E-Type mount makes sure you can always install a front derailleur, even on the single chain ring models. Last but not least, the protectors on the stays help keep drive train noise to a minimum, whilst the discretely integrated alloy “chain suck guides” protect from damage caused by a fallen chain.
The Carbon Models:
The JEFFSY 27 is available in four carbon versions: CF Pro Race, CF Pro, CF One, and CF Two. The top of the line JEFFSY 27 CF Pro Race features only the very best parts, which makes it an ideal choice for racers and pro riders. It’s also the only bike in the range that offers 160mm of travel, ready to get rowdy. The Kashima coated FOX Factory suspension components were designed for aggressive trail riding and serious enduro racing, and they are both ready to mix it up with the best. Drivetrain wise the choice fell to e*thirteen, being a very reliable and robust cassette for racing with its perfect range of gears. Carbon wheels, cranks, and handlebar help keep JEFFSY’s weight really low, this rocket weighs a mere 12.4 kg.
The JEFFSY 27 CF Pro is also a convincing package with extraordinary specs: The FOX Performance Elite suspension shines with top-class responsiveness on aggressive downhill sections as it comes with exact the same damping cartridge as the big brother Factory Series. In fact, the only difference between the Performance Elite fork and the Factory Series are the hard-anodized stanchions. Another eye-catcher on the CF Pro: the SRAM Eagle transmission which with its twelve gears makes the front derailleur superfluous. Those who prefer RockShox suspension will find themselves in great company with the JEFFSY 27 CF One or CF Two. The CF One offers a crisp, 11-speed SRAM transmission while the CF Two provides 2×11 gears via Shimano’s XT group.
The Aluminum Models:
When it comes to aluminum, YT offers a choice between the JEFFSY 27 AL One and AL Two. Neither have anything to envy their carbon colleagues, since they are both based on the same frame platform. The user-friendly suspension components are easy to set up and adjust, even for beginners. Both bikes offer 150mm of ready-to-rumble suspension travel front and rear: A RockShox Pike RC fork and Deluxe RT shock on the AL One, and a RockShox Pike RC and Deluxe R on the AL Two. The biggest difference between the two aluminum models is the drivetrain: the AL One features a SRAM X1 1×11 transmission while the AL Two goes 2×11 with SRAM GX.
All models come in S, M, L, and XL sizes and are available to order as of today on the website www.yt-industries.com.
JEFFSY 27 CF Build Kits:
JEFFSY 27 CF Pro Race
JEFFSY 27 CF CF Pro
Fox 34 Float Factory
Fox 34 Performance Elite
Fox Float X Factory
Fox Float DPS Performance Elite
160mm / 160mm
150mm / 150mm
Race Face Next SL
SRAM X01 Eagle
SRAM X01 Eagle
E.13 TRSr SL
E.13 TRSr / E.13 TRS+
Maxxis High Roller II
Renthal Apex 35
Race Face Turbine 35
Renthal Fatbar Carbon 35
Race Face SIXc 35
SRAM Guide Ultimate
SRAM Guide RSC
RockShox Reverb stealth
Race Face Turbine
4.499 EUR / 3.799 GBP
3.999 EUR / 3.399 GBP
JEFFSY 27 CF One
JEFFSY 27 CF Two
RockShox Pike RCT3
RockShox Pike RCT3
RockShox Deluxe RT3
RockShox Deluxe RT3
150mm / 150mm
150mm / 150mm
Race Face Turbine
Race Face Turbine
Maxxis High Roller II
Maxxis High Roller II
Race Face Turbine 35
Race Face Turbine 35
Race Face Turbine 35
Race Face Turbine 35
SRAM Guide RS
SRAM Guide RS
Race Face Turbine
RockShox Reverb stealth
3.399 EUR / 2.899 GBP
3.399 EUR / 2.899 GBP
JEFFSY 27 AL Build Kits:
JEFFSY 27 AL One
JEFFSY 27 AL Two
RockShox Pike RC
RockShox Pike RC
RockShox Deluxe RT
RockShox Deluxe R
150mm / 150mm
150mm / 150mm
Race Face Turbine
Race Face Aeffect SL
DT Swiss M1900 SPLINE
DT Swiss M1900 SPLINE
Maxxis High Roller II
Maxxis High Roller II
Race Face Turbine 35
Race Face Aeffect 35
Race Face Turbine 35
Race Face Aeffect 35
SRAM Guide RS
SRAM Guide R
E.13 Dropper Post
RockShox Reverb stealth
2.599 EUR / 2.199 GBP
2.099 EUR / 1.799 GBP
*Frame size S without Pedals
Due to manufacturing tolerances on individual components the weight may vary by +/- 2%.
JEFFSY 27 Geometry:
Head angle (High/Low)*
Seat tube angle (eff)*
Seat tube angle (act)*
BB drop (High/Low)*
5/ 15 mm
5/ 15 mm
5/ 15 mm
5/ 15 mm
Head tube length
*Values depend on the position of the Flip Chips (High/Low) and suspension travel (160 mm/150 mm).
We’re very excited to see a new Tracer from Intense, after having a ton of fun on their Spider trail bike in both 27.5″ and 29″ iterations last year. Hopefully we’ll be able to get our hands on one soon, the geometry and suspension tweaks sound like real winners on paper. Read on for the official word from Intense.
Three years in the making, the new Tracer has big shoes to fill. Its predecessor was one of the brand’s most acclaimed, best-selling models to date and won the “Interbike Bike of the Year Award” in 2014.
For 2017, the new bike offers up a modern trail geometry, with longer reach and a full extra inch of wheelbase, for a more stable ride.
The JS Tuned suspension platform has been refined and offers an updated carbon top link, providing a stiffer package and more efficient pedaling platform.
The Tracer is available in five builds, and is also offered as a frame-only.
ELITE BUILD // Carbon Front & Rear Triangle / JS-Enduro link pivot system / Carbon upper link / Sram X01 Eagle / Fabric Saddle / RoxkShox Reverb Stealth Seatpost / Sram Guide Brakes
PRO BUILD // Carbon Front & Rear Triangle / JS-Enduro link pivot system / Carbon upper link / Sram X1, 11-speed / Fabric Saddle, RockShox Reverb Stealth Dropper Post / Sram Guide Brakes
EXPERT BUILD // Carbon Front & Rear Triangle / JS-Enduro link pivot system / Alloy Upper Link / Shimano XT, 11 Speed / WTB Saddle / RockShox Reverb Dropper Post / Shimano XT Brakes
FOUNDATION BUILD // Carbon Front & Rear Triangle / JS-Enduro link pivot system / Alloy upper link / RockSox Lyric RC 160mm fork / RockShox Monarch Plus RC3 rear shock / Shimano XT, 11-speed / WTB Saddle / Shimano XT Brakes
Get all the details, including full specifications, geometry, photo gallery and more at:
Finally! There’s been news on the grapevine for some time about Norco having some big release news early in 2017, and here it is!
The new Norco Sight follows in the footsteps of the Optic trail bike by offering both 27.5″ and 29″ wheelsizes, with an all new carbon frame. Norco’s engineering team have a pretty interesting take on giving consumers 27.5″ and 29″ wheel options for their models without compromising the overall ride qualities of the bike, which we discussed with Norco engineer Owen Pemberton last year. We’ve also reviewed how Norco’s approach to bike fit at length in our Norco Optic review.
We’ve reviewed many versions of the Norco Sight previously. Take a read to see how the bike has evolved.
Norco’s decision to offer riders two different wheel sizes in the new Sight is an interesting one, especially given the undeniable swing back towards popularity currently being enjoyed by longer travel 29ers (bikes such as the Yeti SB5.5 and YT Jeffsy that we’re reviewing at the moment). We’ll be interested to see which option proves most popular as the bikes arrive.
As with the Optic, the 29er version of the Sight has slightly less travel – 130mm rear, 140mm front – versus the 27.5″ version, which runs 140/150mm.
With the launch of the new Sight, Norco have also released a round table discussion between Senior Design Engineer Owen Pemberton, Norco Product Manager Jim Jamieson, and Engineering Manager P.J. Hunton outlining why they’ve made the changes that they have to the geometry and suspension, and also some interesting discussion around how the bikes are specced.
We think it’s worth a watch, as Owen Pemberton really simplifies Norco’s philosophy with regards to the Sight’s handling, suspension and fit, and Jim Jamieson does an excellent job explaining why certain components were decided upon with regards to spec.
We’re hoping to have a Sight C9.2 in our hands next week, when we’ll bring you more thoughts once we’ve had time to scratch and sniff it. Now let’s jump back into the official word from Norco.
Building on the best qualities of the previous generation Sight, our engineers applied their evolved geometry philosophy to redesign the frame from the ground up, and to introduce a 29er with the same fit and nearly identical handling characteristics as the Killer B. The result is a versatile trail killer with longer, lower, and slacker geometry to suit modern All-Mountain riding styles, and a new A.R.T. Suspension system for improved suspension performance.
To achieve the renowned fit and handling of the Killer B in a 29er platform, the 29er is designed around the same rear center lengths, with a longer front centre, steeper head tube angle, shorter stem, and 10mm less travel front and rear to offset the characteristics of the larger wheels. Although the stack and reach measurements of a Sight 650b and 29er will differ, when stem length is incorporated (a measurement Norco engineers call Reach Plus and Stack Plus), the fit between the two platforms is identical.
The Sight Carbon 29er is available in the widest possible size range without compromising the geometry, fit, and handling. Whether you prefer the quick acceleration and playfulness of 650b wheels or the improved rollover and momentum of a 29er – the Sight Carbon offers riders choice without compromise.
Balanced climbing and descending capability combined with grin-inducing playfulness and nimble handling make the Sight the ideal accomplice on any aggressive All-Mountain ride. The dialed spec includes metric rear shocks, 1x drivetrains, integrated frame protection, wide tubeless-ready rims, stealth dropper posts, and other thoughtful details that make the Sight Carbon feel like a custom build, straight out of the box.
We’re very excited to be taking delivery of a Sight C9.2 model in the very near future, as we think the new Sight suits the type of riding we do alot of here at Flow. Keep your eyes peeled for a First Bite soon!
Advance Traders will be bringing all three models in the Sight range into Australia in both 27.5″ and 29″ sizes, and prices range between $4999 and $8199.
The direct-to-consumer brand released the Jeffsy mid last year amongst much fanfare with the 140mm trail bike being the first 29” offering from the gravity oriented Germans. Given the brand’s image, a 29er was certainly a surprise move, but YT acted fast to make sure everyone knew this was a bike that was still built to shred, by pumping out one of the best launch videos of the year. Watch it below.
What’s the YT Jeffsy all about?
Before releasing the Jeffsy, the YT line up consisted of the 27.5” Enduro focused Capra (read our review here) a couple of dirt jump bikes and the Tues downhill bike, so the Jeffsy filled the hole for the type of bike many riders are buying these days, a 140mm trail bike, something that shines on the climbs and descents equally. We’re pretty stoked about this also, as the 120-140mm travel range is also pretty spot on for most Australian conditions.
Despite being the bike with the least amount of travel in the YT line up, it’s clear the Jeffsy is a 140mm bike that wants to throw any stereotypes off a bridge. A burly frame is the first sign of this bike’s eager intentions, and geometry numbers like the slack 67.6 degree head angle and a long front centre tell you the Jeffsy doesn’t want to be treated gently out on the trail.
The Jeffsy has a flip-chip on the shock that allows the rider to switch between two head angle and bottom bracket options. We’re starting the review in the slacker head angle position, but will be alternating between the two positions throughout the course of testing to see how the geometry adjustments change the ride.
Is that a full carbon frame?
It sure is! YT are clearly confident in their carbon layup, as you see many brands going for aluminium rear triangles and chainstays in this travel bracket. The frame’s construction is beautifully finished, with smooth carbon lines throughout, chunky pivot points and well thought out frame protection. The frame is the only carbon you’ll find on this bike, but even still the complete bike weighs respectably smack on 13kg.
A regular shaped water bottle won’t fit in the frame, but YT offer their own “Thirstmaster 3000”, which is a custom water bottle and cage combo for the Jeffsy, with the bottle holding exactly one pint of liquid (an American Pint that is- 473ml). Whilst the inability to fit a regular sized drink bottle in the Jeffsy and the $100 price tag for the Thirstmaster 3000 is a slight annoyance, we believe every trail bike should have somewhere to put a bottle, so we appreciate YT giving riders the option rather than forcing them to wear a pack.
If I don’t pick up this bike assembled from a bike shop, is the bike easy to build out of the box?
We covered YT’s shipping process and what you can expect as a consumer in our review of the Capra last year, and building up the Jeffsy was very simple. As we covered in out article on the Capra, YT really do make the process fairly straightforward, and the boxing of the bike is excellent.
What’s the spec like?
Across their range of bikes, it’s clear that YT put a lot of time into speccing their bikes with parts that are up to the job. They don’t skimp on components in one area to bolster another, and the direct to consumer sales model keeps the pricing keen.
The Jeffsy CF Comp 2 is no exception, and the $5499 price tag represents a favourable dollars to shiny parts ratio. The suspension is handled by Rockshox front and rear, and the top of the line Monarch shock and Pike RCT3 fork are pretty hard to beat as far as suspension goes. The drivetrain is a normally a 2×11 XT arrangement with RaceFace Turbine cranks on this particular model, but we converted the bike to 1×11 before we’d even left the workshop.
Brakes are Shimano XT, with a whopping 200mm front rotor paired with a 180mm rotor out back.
The wheelset is DT Swiss’s M1700 Spline hoops in their narrow guise, coming in at 22.5mm internally. This is the only component we’re feeling a little dubious about, just because we’ve become such fans of wider hoops over the past 12 months.
The Onza Ibex tyres strongly resemble Maxxis’ Minion DHR II tyres, which are a great option for the aggressive trail rider, and they match the intentions of the Jeffsy perfectly. They’re a big 2.4″ front and rear.
It’s funny how the little things can really help a bike make a good first impression – the RaceFace grips instantly meshed with us, and the SDG saddle’s narrow nose works for us too.
How many models are there in the range?
YT bring three carbon Jeffsy models into Australia as well as three alloy models, so there’s plenty of choice. Prices range from $3299-7499, so there’s a good spread for a wide variety of budgets.
Where are we going to ride the YT Jeffsy?
We’ve just had a trip to some of Victoria’s finest trails, to get to know the Jeffsy, before returning to our home base of Sydney’s rocky, rugged trails. We know one particularly fast local shredder aboard a Jeffsy who pilots it around some technical trails pretty quickly, so we’re interested to see how far we can push the limits of the Jeffsy’s 140mm of travel.
Even though the Yeti SB5.5 is a brand-new model from the Colorado based company, it’s refreshing to see that despite its long travel, Yeti haven’t tried to compete in the ‘longest, lowest and slackest’ game some manufacturers seem to be playing.
What is the Yeti SB5.5 Turq?
The Yeti SB5.5 Turq is Yeti’s first long travel 29” model, combining 140mm of rear wheel travel with 160mm of squish up front.
Much like Santa Cruz’s C and CC carbon models, Yeti have now adopted a two-tier system for frames across their range, with the ‘Carbon’ title representing their budget offering, and the ‘Turq’ series offering a lighter overall frame weight by using higher quality carbon throughout.
Despite the claimed 250-350 gram saving on the Turq model framesets compared to the Carbon framesets depending on model and size, there’s no difference in strength or stiffness between the two.
How much more do I pay for a Turq model?
In Australia, there are a variety of options when purchasing a Yeti SB5.5. The Turq model comes as a frameset, retailing for a mighty $5350, but also comes in four build options (two Sram and two Shimano) ranging from $9890 for a 1×11 XT drivetrain build through to $10850 for the Eagle X01 model with the Fox suspension we’re testing.
The Carbon model comes in a full build only, retailing at $7390. Major differences include the Fox Performance line suspension in place of the Factory level suspension specced on the Turq models, and the XT/SLX drivetrain. Whilst these componentry changes are downgrades, the spec is ready to roll straight onto the trail, not to mention the fact that despite the slightly heavier frame than the Turq series, the Carbon frame is exactly the same. For those reasons, we’re very happy to see a lower price point option!
Enough about the Turq and Carbon series, how can we expect the SB5.5 to ride?
Simply having a roll around on the SB5.5 reaffirmed that Yeti haven’t redesigned the geometry textbook with the SB5.5. With numbers like a 66.5-degree head angle, 73.6-degree seat tube angle and an 1168mm wheelbase in a size medium, we don’t feel like we’re regurgitating the ‘jack of all trades’ tagline by saying that the SB5.5 is designed to do a bit of everything.
Equipped with the 160mm Float 36 fork up front, the SB5.5 will handle the burly descents, but the 140mm of Switch Infinity rear suspension pedals insanely well, so combined with the slightly more upright position than other long travel 29” bikes on the market, the SB5.5 should be more suited to all-day pedalling missions in varied terrain, rather than out and out descending.
What are you getting for $10850 for the model we’re testing?
As we mentioned before, the SB5.5 we’re testing is X01 Eagle build kit option with Fox suspension, which retails for $10850. This bike is out of the price range of most consumers; however, Yeti has always been, and will always be a boutique brand.
Obviously, the main attraction of this bike is the stunning frameset. Smooth, curvy lines encase the Switch Infinity suspension design, which uses a custom system provided by Fox to provide some of the best pedalling performance on the market.
We’ll go into the Switch Infinity design and its effectiveness on the SB5.5 more in the full review, however, to summarise the system uses two rails located directly above the bottom bracket to manipulate the bike’s axle path as it moves through its travel.
As the bike goes through its initial phase of travel, the carrier moves upwards on the two rails, creating a rearward axle path for improved pedalling performance. As the bike compresses further into its travel however, the rails move downwards (hence the ‘Switch’ part of the title), creating a vertical axle path and reducing chain tension for more supple suspension performance on bigger hits. The rails only move slightly in either direction, but in practice the system works excellently to provide both excellent pedalling performance and a supple stroke as the suspension moves deeper into its travel.
What about the build kit?
The build kit on the model we’re testing is excellent, as you would expect for the money. A Factory series Fox Float fork, with the three position Fit4 damper has low speed compression adjustment in the open position, but also a lockout, which adds to the bike’s ‘do it all’ intentions.
The Fox Float X in the rear also has three positions and can also be locked out- if the start of your rides typically involve a road pedal, being able to lock out your suspension guarantees you a few extra minutes on the trail!
The drivetrain is a full Eagle X01 arrangement, need we say more?
Brakes are also provided by Sram in the form of their Guide RSC brakes, and the dropper post is a RockShox Reverb.
In the wheels department, some will be disappointed not to see carbon at this price point, but DT Swiss’ 350 hubs are proven performers, and they’ve been laced to RaceFace ARC 30 rims, with a 30mm internal rim width that gives the Maxxis WT tyres an excellent shape.
Despite costing the big bucks, the SB5.5 is perfectly specced to cope with a huge variety of riding, from general trail duties to rowdier adventures you won’t be admitting to the partner about when you get home.
So, where will we be riding the SB5.5?
Bloody everywhere! We’re very excited to be testing the SB5.5 alongside the YT Jeffsy, another 140mm 29er, and we’ll be riding all sorts of terrain to see how the SB5.5 stacks up.
First up is a huge road trip through the Victorian High Country, we’ve chosen the Yeti to join us in Falls Creek, Bright, Mt Beauty, Yackandandah, Dinner Plain, Beechworth and Mt Buller. Stay tuned!
But one style of riding which isn’t going anywhere is the good ol’ ‘plod to the top, shred till you drop’ – it’s what we’ve all been doing for years, the difference now is we’ve got bikes and race formats specifically targeting this style of rider and riding.
You’re probably wondering where the hell we’re going with this? Well, the big, brash and bold reincarnation of the Pivot Firebird optimises the current ambitions of many trail riders out there- plodding along to the top having a yarn, and riding the descents hard and fast. Unlike Pokémon Go however, we don’t think bikes like the Firebird will fade into obscurity.
Heading to Thredbo? We’d suggest you give the Makin Trax Basecamp a try. They hosted us for our week in Thredbo, and it was the perfect setup for our crew of six riders. With five bedrooms, to sleep up to 12 riders, a huge kitchen, an open fire and plenty of space to store your bikes, it’s just bloody ideal. They’re doing some great accommodation and lift pass packages too. Take a look!
What’s the Pivot Firebird all about?
We covered off a few of the basics about the reinvigorated Firebird’s geometry and construction in our First Bite, but put simply the Firebird adheres to the long, low and slack formula that tends to be the standard for bikes with more than 150mm of travel in 2016. Pivot have combined a modern geometry with 170mm of travel front and rear, and even on our first ride, the plushness of 170mm of DW link suspension blew our minds. It’s got that same bottomless feel you’d normally associate with a full blown downhill bike.
Where does the Firebird shine?
It’s not going to surprise anyone that this bike is an absolute beast downhill. Most of this bike’s testing took place in Thredbo, and the Firebird was not afraid of the rocky, technical Cannonball DH track. We mused in the First Bite that the capabilities of the bike’s tester would be reached before the bike itself, and that was very much the case.
In terms of ploughing through rock gardens, committing to loose, high speed sections and taking the gnarly lines, the Pivot never felt out of its depth- it was always the rider pulling the pin before the bike lost control.
On high speed sections, as well as wide open turns, of which Thredbo has about a million, the Pivot felt exceptionally stable thanks to its long wheelbase and low bottom bracket. Combined with a rear end that grips the trail like Velcro, we never felt like we were skipping around through braking bumps, or being taken off line in rough sections. If you point the Firebird in the general direction you want to go, it’ll get you there.
This is a bike that much prefers to plough through disrespectfully than tiptoe its way along the trail.
What about jumping, and flicking the bike around on the trail?
In the air the Firebird is very stable. Come up short or land awkwardly, it will save your bacon – we definitely rolled out of some situations where other bikes might’ve bucked us off. In terms of using little hops or transfer lines in the singletrack however, the Firebird felt sluggish- this is a bike that much prefers to plough through disrespectfully than tiptoe its way along the trail.
The Firebird has a similar sluggishness when pulling the bike up into a manual. We don’t see these observations as criticisms however, a bike this long and with this much travel is never going to be a bike you can throw around like a shorter travel trail weapon.
If it’s fast and open the Firebird excels, but what about when the trail gets tight?
Another area where we noticed the Pivot’s slackness and length was in tight turns. Getting the Pivot to corner tightly required either some serious body language to muscle the bike, or forethought about using an endo or cutty to whip the bike around.
Whilst the Pivot didn’t love slow speed, tight turns, the bike had a remarkable ability to pull us through some terrible line choices in the corners. The long front centre, ample amounts of suspension and excellent rubber allowed us to move around the bike with the knowledge that there would be traction available almost all the time, and we could exaggerate our weight distribution to wrestle the bike through corners where we’d entered on some pretty poor lines.
What about climbing, or less technical singletrack?
The Pivot climbs remarkably well considering it’s a 170mm bike. The low speed compression lever on the shock was excellent for firming the bike up not only on longer, smoother climbs, but almost all the time when the trail points up. As the Firebird is such a long travel machine, the shock does bob a fair bit when it’s left open on the climbs, so utilising the compression lever (which doesn’t lock the shock out completely, and still allows the suspension to maintain traction up technical climbs) gives a much more efficient pedalling platform for climbing.
Climbing tight switchbacks and technical terrain will see you shuffling right forward in the saddle – you need to focus on putting weight over the front to stop the front wheel from wandering like a lost child. This is always going to be the price for a long, front centre and a stubby cockpit- you can’t have it all!
On less technical singletrack and undulating terrain the Pivot did an admirable job of hiding its 170mm of travel, but it would not be our preferred bike of choice for long days of meandering singletrack. The bike’s descending focused geometry and spec make razzing through flatter singletrack, pumping undulations for speed and putting sharp bursts of effort in on the trail noticeably more difficult than on a 140mm trail bike.
How did the spec perform?
We discussed in the First Bite our approval for Pivot deciding to provide continuity within the Firebird models by speccing Fox suspension and Maxxis Minion tyres front and rear throughout the range, and this approval was warranted, as these critical components provide so much of the confidence the Firebird oozes out on the trails.
The tuneability and dominant performance of the Factory level Fox suspension allowed us to dial in the ride qualities of the Firebird, and the beefy tyres mounted to wide rims gave us confidence in laying the bike over in all sorts of conditions. An aggressive intent is pivotal to getting the most out of the Pivot, as with so much bike underneath you you can really throw it around quite recklessly.
The 1×11 Shimano drivetrain, a mixture of XT with an XTR rear derailleur worked excellently, however we were confused at the lack of chainguide as standard considering the intentions of this bike, and the meticulous attention to detail in other areas of the spec.
The new DT Swiss M1700 wheels, with a 30mm internal rim width were strong and reliable, and other excellent touches included the Fox Transfer dropper post, and the stylish and ergonomic Pivot cockpit.
What other builds does the Firebird come in?
The Firebird comes in four build kit options, starting at $8189.9 for an XT level build, and heading all the way up to $12789.9 for the Gucci XTR build kit.
As mentioned above, the lack of chainguide confused us. If you’re riding this bike to its capabilities, the last thing you want to be worrying about is your chain.
The only other complaints we had was the lack of bottle cage mount inside the front triangle, despite there appearing to be space. There are bottle mounts under the down tube, which is great if you like dirt with your water. The low hanging loop of gear cable exiting to downtube and running under the bottom bracket is a little dicey too. On a bike like the Firebird, which is probably going to be exposed to some ragged, potentially off the trail moments, we feel the cable could’ve been routed above the bottom bracket to avoid snagging on trail debris.
So, who exactly is this bike for?
If you place a high priority on descending fast, you’re an aspiring Enduro racer, or you want to boost your confidence on technical descents, the Pivot Firebird is a very worthy consideration. This bike has a clear mandate – to descend as fast as possible whilst still being able to ride to the top. It knows what it wants to do, and does it incredibly well.
Firebird is another term for a Phoenix (or so Wikipedia tells us), which is why it’s not surprising that this rig has a lot in common with Pivot’s downhill bike, the Phoenix. Those similarities are going to be put to the test in Thredbo, where we’ll be spending a week smashing out laps of the awesome trails Thredders has to offer.
Heading to Thredbo? We’d suggest you give the Makin Trax Basecamp a try. They hosted us for our week in Thredbo, and it was the perfect setup for our crew of six riders. With five bedrooms, to sleep up to 12 riders, a huge kitchen, an open fire and plenty of space to store your bikes, it’s just bloody ideal. They’re doing some great accommodation and lift pass packages too. Take a look!
That’s a big looking bike- what are the numbers?
For a few years now, 160mm has been the accepted travel amount for bikes in the ‘enduro’ category. For 2017, many brands have bumped the fork travel up to 170mm matched with 160mm rear ends. Pivot decided that they could go one better, and the beefy Firebird sports 170mm of travel both front and rear.
On paper, it looks like the capabilities of our tester will be reached before the capabilities of the bike, with a very slack 65-degree head angle. While some folk have criticised Pivot’s earlier long-travel bikes for having reach measurements that were on the short side, the new Firebird is very roomy up front, the wheelbase being a massive 1228mm in a size large.
Pivot bikes are usually pretty, what’s the Firebird like in the flesh?
Gorgeous. We’re currently also testing a Mach 429 Trail (we know, we’re spoiled) and we described is as the sort of bicycle that begs for an owner who wants a classic trail bike that leaves the ‘aggressive, hard-charging, progressive,’ tags at home.
Despite both being Pivots, the Firebird’s construction couldn’t be further from the 429. The chunky tubing screams stiffness and strength, and the frame protection throughout further stresses the Pivot’s trail ploughing intentions.
That’s not to say the Firebird doesn’t have a subtle side as well – the bike still possesses the smooth, flowing frame design that Pivot is renowned for, and well thought out cable routing ensures a clean look.
How have Pivot specced the Firebird?
Our Firebird is the Pro XT/XTR 1x build. Highlights include Fox Factory suspension front and rear, with compression adjustment switches on both the fork and the shock to lock out that 170mm of squish when you need to, a Shimano XTR rear derailleur, and a Pivot cockpit with their nicely shaped carbon handlebar.
We really appreciate that, regardless of which of the four build kit options you choose, the bike retains a Fox Float 36 fork and the X2 rear shock, as well as a Maxxis Minion DHF 2.5” front tyre and a Minion DHR 2.4” on the rear mounted to wide rims. Not only does this ensure that throughout the range the bikes will ride relatively similarly, but it’s clear that whoever specced this bike rode one first, as these capable components are essential to bringing the best out of the Firebird.
170mm is a lot of travel, where would you ride this thing?
170mm is a lot of travel, but Pivots are renowned for pedalling efficiency through the DW linkage design, lightweight frames and spec decisions. Obviously, the Firebird is aimed at the rider who prioritises the descents, but that rider is still likely to have the occasional singletrack blast, so we’ll be seeing how the Firebird fares at all types of riding for our full review.
With the downhill track, flow trail, all-mountain trail and valley loop handy, we’ll certainly have a variety of riding to assess just what the Firebird is capable of. Keep your eyes peeled for a full review shortly!
Whyte’s offering in this hotly contested sector is the T-130. Based around 27.5″ wheels, a long and slack geometry and the usual forward thinking from this progressive brand, we’re excited to get pedalling!
So who is this bike for?
The Whyte T-130 will suit a variety of riders, but this bike is screaming ‘pick me!’ to riders with an aggressive style. Attributes such as 27.5″ wheels, short 420mm chainstays and a 67 degree head angle mean the T-130 can be thrown around, and also punch above its weight in more technical terrain. We’ll be taking this bike on some trails normally reserved for longer travel steeds to see just how capable it is.
What do I get for my money?
Whyte place priority in their customers knowing their bikes are for riders, by riders. This is reflected in the T-130C RS’s specifications. For $6999, the bike represents a well rounded, premium offering.
The build on the T-130C RS is almost exclusively SRAM. The drivetrain is the new Eagle XO 12 speed group, which we applaud as Eagle’s huge range should mean that the bike having no front derailleur mount shouldn’t be an issue.
The suspension is handled by RockShox with the proven Pike/Monarch combo (Pike RC and Monarch RT3), and the brakes are Guide RS’s. The stealth routed RockShox Reverb rounds out the SRAM cockpit, which allows for the use of matchmaker clamps throughout and a very uncluttered handlebar.
The wheels are Raceface ARC-30’s with, you guessed it, 30mm internal width. Whyte have stocked the bike with a beefy Maxxis High Roller II on the front in the super-grippy 3C compound, and a faster rolling Maxxis Crossmark II out the back.
What are some unique features of the bike?
Whyte’s UK heritage shines through when you take a closer look at this bike. Rubber grommets seal the internally routed cables, a rubber stopper is used at the seatpost to avoid water getting into the frame and the bearings are all weather-sealed with bearing caps. Whyte are so confident in the bearings they offer a lifetime bearing replacement. Built to be ridden in soggy British winters, the bike also features fender mounts on the underside of the downtube.
Another well-thought out feature of this bike is the brakes, which are not mounted directly into the frame in case the thread becomes rounded, but attached via a barrel thread that inserts into slots on the brake mounts.
We’re excited to get out on the trail and see if this bike lives up to expectations, so stay tuned for the full review!
The EX in this bike’s name lets you know it’s a slightly different machine to the rest of the Spectral range, with 10mm more travel up front, at 150mm. The rear end is still 140mm, but the longer travel fork kicks the head angle back to a lazy 67-degrees, which is the kind of geometry that, like Barack Obama, says to you “YES WE CAN.” On descents which we’ve ridden dozens of times, we found ourselves spotting new gaps, playing with lines that just looked foolish or dangerous in the past. We don’t know if we were going any faster, but we did a lot of grinning.
Ensuring the ride doesn’t become all plough and no play, the chain stays are a tight 425mm, so it still rips around on the rear wheel like crazy. It’s all too happy to manual out of a corner and pre-jumping into every downside is second nature. You can pretty much disregard the landing ramp too, as the RockShox Pike will handle it all. We popped two Bottomless Tokens into the fork and fell in love with the Pike once again.
The Spectral comes setup with Cane Creek’s recommended tune out of the box
The Cane Creek DB InLine shock tends to divide riders. There are those who love its tunability and the way it devours all you throw at it like footy team at a Sizzler, but on the other hand it’s a complicated shock to adjust and it doesn’t have the best reputation for reliability. The Spectral comes setup with Cane Creek’s recommended tune out of the box, and we’d advise you not to make any changes at least initially. Ride it, get a feel for the shock, and then if you want to tweak, do so in small amounts keeping track of the changes you make. We added half a turn of high-speed compression above the baseline setting, just to give it a bit more support on the big hits to match the fork’s performance.
Climbing on the Spectral is made easier by the bike’s low weight, but you’ll still want to use the shock Climb Switch regularly. It creates a stable pedalling platform but the shock definitely feels a bit ‘dead’ with the switch engaged, especially when compared to a FOX shock which is firmer when locked out but still has a bit of liveliness about it.
Hooking into a grippy turn on the Spectral is the kind of experience that makes you wee a bit, with joy. The cockpit and fork just encourage you to lean on the front wheel, and the tyres grip like they’re made from warmed-up chewing gum. Don’t get too accustomed to the grip of these treads though – they don’t feel like they’ll last long, the compound wears down fast. The Mavic CrossMax rims mightn’t be the widest going, but we didn’t have any issues with tyre support and the wheels look and sound awesome.
If your shifting and braking don’t have a conscious place in your ride, that’s a good thing. Thanks to the addition of an E13 chain guide, we never even considered the chain on the Spectral, and the 1×11 SRAM X01 drivetrain never left us wanting at either end of the gear spectrum. With 180mm rotors at both ends, a featherlight touch is all that’s needed and you’ll feel those soft tyres clawing into dirt to slow you down.
When a bike gets the little things right, it all has a way of compounding into a bigger, better experience
When a bike gets the little things right, it all has a way of compounding into a bigger, better experience and the Spectral sure nails all the finer details. The cable routing is great and silent, there’s comprehensive protection from chain slap and down tube impacts, and you can fit a water bottle with ease. We especially like the Impact Protection headset that stops your bars spinning in a crash as well. And that colour! We think it’s brilliant – it certainly is bold and unique, and depending on the light you view it in, it can appear anything from fluorescent green to metallic gold. If it’s all too much for you, you can get the bike in black as well, but if we owned this bike we’d want people to notice it.
If a bike can make you look at trails you’ve ridden countless times in a new light, then it’s doing something right, and the Spectral certainly achieves this. It’s fun as hell, has a kind of polished construction that you’d hope for in a German brand, and it comes in it a price that (while admittedly still a lot of money) is very competitive as well.
I’d come to Indonesia to spend some time with the team behind Polygon Bikes, and today we were going to ride a volcano. First, we had to survive the journey out of town to the mountains beyond, a gauntlet of oncoming buses, bikes and family-laden scooters that I think you have to grow up with to even dream of navigating. In the distance, the silhouette of Mt Bromo, our destination, was like a comic book shark fin, jutting out of the plains and paddies.
When people think of mountain biking in Indonesia, it’s Bali that is front of mind. But volcanos pepper the east of Java too like barnacles, and Mt Bromo is one of the grandest, notable not just for its size but for the fact it’s still very, very active. So active in fact that approaching the crater was banned as recently as November, just two months prior. But despite the occasional tectonic ejections, the slopes of Bromo are clustered with villages and farms. And amongst them run hundreds of walking trails and access tracks that are the economic capillaries of these rural communities. Today these walking tracks would be our trails, on our epic 36km journey from the peak of Bromo, a ride as unique as any we’ve ever attempted.
The Polygon lads know these trails well now, but working out a continuous, rideable route from top to bottom of Bromo was like escaping the Labyrinth, a labour of love that took many months; dozens of weekends of wrong turns, dead ends, back-tracking up goat paths that had fruitlessly ended in a cabbage patch. The volcano now plays a big role in the local riding scene, as the site of club races and group rides, and it’s also become the default testing ground for new Polygon products too. Like mountain bike product designers the world over, the team behind Polygon bikes are in their jobs because they’re riders. On just about any weekend, they’ll be out there, either descending from the crater’s edge, or shuttling the lower slopes.
The morning shift at the Polygon factory was just arriving as we strapped the last of the bikes into the tray of our truck, casting us somewhat jealous looks as they head in for eight hours on the assembly line. Even at 7:30am the humidity is cloying, banks of clouds building in the distance, already fattening up and promising a downpour. The wet season isn’t the ideal time to ride, “Man, we are going to be so muddy,” laughs Zende. His Colossus N9 is still caked in red chunks of mud from his last Bromo descent and he straps it in tight to the back of the truck for the windy, bumpy shuttle ahead. Zende is Polygon’s product development manager, the man who has driven the huge change in the brand since 2012. Three others from his team are with us today too. Dwi, or Tommy as he’s known (frame engineering), Ridwan (spec manager) and Syamsu, (graphics). Their bikes are like a timeline of product development, a mix of production bikes and test mules, frames that will never make production and others modified with tweaks that might be incorporated in seasons to come.
Escaping Surabaya doesn’t happen suddenly. You must claw your way out of the city, scrapping through roadworks and clogged intersections. Occasionally you’ll crest a bridge and you’ve got a view beyond the immediate chaos, to the green, inviting slopes of the volcanos in the distance. Almost imperceptibly at first, the density of traffic, people and commerce starts to dwindle, and after about an hour and a half of driving we hit the first rolling foothills of Bromo. The pace of life around us has changed; there are still motor bikes to dodge, but they come in two and threes, not swarms. And the markets by the road are stocked with produce, rather than mobile phones.
On the drive out, I’d asked if the crew had ever pedalled up Bromo, and I just got a bit of a laugh in response. I know found out why, as the road headed skyward, one and a half lanes wide, snaking up the gullies and ridge lines. We’ve done some epic shuttle drives in our time, but this takes the cake! For over an hour we climbed unceasingly, through villages and farms, the road occasionally buried under a few inches of rich top soil that has slipped from the hill in the rains. On all sides the landscape is terraced and tilled, often on terrain so steep it looks impossible to walk let alone farm.
Finally we pull up, all slightly car sick and stiff legged. It’s not until we clamber up a bank on the roadside that I get some perspective, and I’m blown away. We’re standing right on the edge of a huge crater, a mammoth scoop out of the mountain top, in the centre of which lies another separate peak – the mouth of Bromo. It’s alive, spitting out periodic roils of ash, the mountain smoking furiously, like just about every man over the age of 12 in Indonesia. I’ve never seen anything that made me feel so terrifyingly temporary. Amazingly, right at the foot of the inner caldera, there’s a temple. While it’s only used once a year or so, for rituals that involve throwing offerings into the mouth of the volcano, it’s right in the firing line, and if Bromo were to blow, it’s game over for the worshippers. The temples occupants have nothing but their faith to protect them, and it’s time for me to do the same, as I put my trust in the line choices of Syamsu and try to follow his wheel as we begin our descent.
We’re flying along the ridge lines, picking up crazy speed with that kind of tremendous inertia you only get on really long descents, when you’re out of gears and off the brakes. Up ahead, I’m trying to read Syamsu’s body language as he skips over ruts that have been gouged by the spinning wheels of motorbikes hauling cabbage and broccoli from the farms lining the trail. The further we descend, the more the trail surface changes; at first sandy and full of grippy volcanic pumice, it gradually turns to red clay. The ruts begin to develop a wheel sucking magnetism that you’ve got to fight – so much as glance at a rut then that’s where you’re heading!
We peel off the double track and into a village, where the obstacles are no longer ruts but free ranging children and chickens, waving and squawking at us. I want to point my camera at everything, but the Polygon guys know rain is on the way, so we don’t stop for too long. The trail gets narrower again, traversing across fields on singletrack that we occasionally share with an overloaded motorbike. Up until now, the riding has been fast and fun, though nothing too tricky, but that changes in a big way. Almost simultaneously the trail points down into a long section of steep chutes and switchbacks and the rain crashes in like a shore break. It’s an immersion, not a shower, of the kind you only get in a swimming pool or the tropics. The rain comes down so hard it gets in your lungs, it pools your ears.
We’re in hysterics as we become complete passengers. Stopping is out of the question, so there’s nothing for it but to let it all slide! Over my shoulder I catch a glimpse of Tommy in the air, sailing into the bushes after either not seeing or not making a corner. Syamsu doesn’t seem to slow down though, and through sun glasses that are running like a waterfall I watch him duck into trail that runs down the narrow row of an apple orchard. The fruit laden boughs are bent low, and I wallop into fat apples which sail off down the trail ahead of me. It’s a ridiculous, fantastic scene; flying apples, head to toe mud, scrapping blindly down trails on the slopes of a volcano. I lock it away in the mental vault as one of the most surreal riding experiences I’ve ever had.
The rain stops as abruptly as it began, leaving nothing but swirling ghosts of steam, twisting over the warm trail surface. After passing through another village market, carts hanging with durian, we reach the lower slopes of Bromo and head into the towering rows of a rubber plantation. These trails are the most popular in the district, easily shuttled, with a number of different routes to the bottom, but right now they’re deadly slippery. Braking would only lead to less traction, so it’s five fingers on the bar! Unlike the farming trails up top, these singletracks have been built by mountain bikers, and there are berms and jumps everywhere as they slither through the rubber trees. We’re reaching the foothills now, where Bromo starts to peter out into the plains, and the gradient is ideal. A constant 5% descent that absorbs you totally, no pedalling, no braking, which is a blessing because 30kms of descending has left my hands and legs wrecked.
I feel like I’ve done a full day of downhill runs, and my poor bike – a Polygon Collosus N9 which had been brand new at the start of the day – has been given the ultimate baptism of fire, it’s original colour barely distinguishable. I’m sure I look equally haggard too. Bromo has taught me a lesson or two (as has Syamsu, who always seemed to be pulling away from me, no matter how hard I went) about descending Indo style, and given me one of the most memorable days on the bike I’ve ever experienced. It’s a ride I’ll always talk about, but for the Polygon crew, it’s just another Bromo session, another day at the office, riding volcanos.
Bicycle retail is following the same pattern in part; online purchasing has grabbed an increasing share of sales through both overseas and local operations, but traditional bike shops certainly aren’t going to disappear. What is interesting about online sales is the shift from purely low-cost parts and accessories sales, to complete and increasingly high-end bikes too. The arrival of Canyon to Australia last year was a big shift in gear for online bike sales in Australia. Canyon’s direct sales operation is huge in Europe, and few people doubted that Canyon would have an impact on the local market.
When we lined up a new test bike with Canyon, the Spectral CF 9.0 EX, we thought it’d be good to drop by their local Melbourne HQ and get a better idea of how their operation actually worked – what happens when you push the ‘buy’ button on their website, and who is on the ground in Australia helping things go smoothly? It was also a good opportunity to take the Spectral for a razz on the Canyon crew’s home turf at the Red Hill trails on the Mornington Peninsula.
What we found out was that Canyon Australia in many respects operates pretty similarly to a conventional bike shop, the fundamental difference of course is that they don’t carry the stock (when you make a purchase it come direct from Germany, for now, local warehousing is in the pipeline) and you don’t have to wear pants to shop there. Let us explain; On the wall of the office, the Canyon team have a screen with live analytics from their website running constantly, it tells them straight away how many people are ‘in the shop’. Just like a normal bike shop, the staff can see who is looking at which bike and how long they’ve been there too. They can also see where the potential customer is located, and how they’ve ended up on the Canyon store (for instance, from a Facebook link or via a bike review).
If a customer has a question about a bike, to get the attention of a staff member they can pick up the phone, or more commonly they’ll click the ‘chat’ button on the side of the web page and that’ll put them through directly to a member of the Canyon team in Australia. This is how most questions are answered, and the Canyon crew can be helping out many customers at once this way. What’s funny to see is how many people are clearly browsing and asking questions while they’re meant to be at work, often a chat will break off inexplicably for a while, before coming back online 15 minutes later with the explanation that the boss just walked by!
If a customer decides to make a purchase, they’re able to see straight away if the bike they’re after is in stock (in which case it ships within 10 days from Germany and then usually takes another 10-14 days to arrive at your door), or they’re able to see the window in which the bike will ship in the future if the model, size or colour you want isn’t in stock at that moment. While this delay might be a deal breaker for some potential purchasers, Darryl from Canyon points out that having to wait for a high-end bike is pretty standard fare.
Just like any bike shop, the workshop is crucial too. Canyon carry all the spares needed to keep a customer’s bike running, and they have a full-time mechanic in house to handle any servicing, or Canyon can send any spares to your local workshop of choice too. But that’s enough about that, let’s take a look at the bike!
Our test bike, the Spectral CF 9.0 EX, came directly from Germany just as would any customer’s bike. All Canyons are are assembled in their German factory, and every bike is actually physically test ridden before being boxed and shipped. A little sticker on the box promises the bike has been Umgebaut (rebuilt or converted) which means the brakes are already setup for Australian riders, handy. Getting the bike rolling is really just a matter of putting the bars and front wheel on, inserting the seat post, inflating the tyres and suspension and hitting the trail. If you find yourself struggling with any part of the process, the War and Peace sized manual should be able to help!
So far our experience with Canyon bikes has been limited to the Strive CF, an all-out Enduro bike with EWS pedigree and a design team which includes former World Champion Fabien Barel. You can read our impressions of the Strive here. It’s a real weapon, with the fastest descents in mind, and for most trails and riders it’s going to be overkill. The Spectral on the other hand sits right in the trail bike category; the EX version we’re reviewing has 140mm rear travel and 150mm up front, while the standard or non-EX versions come with a 140mm fork too. Our test bike weighs in just over 12kg setup tubeless, which is an all-day friendly figure indeed.
The geometry is on the slack side of the trail segment, new-school: a 67-degree head angle and 425mm stays, and a generous reach that facilitates a 50mm stem without it getting all cramped. The frame has a compact look to it, with masses of standover height as well. You can’t fail to mention the colour either, it’s one of those finishes that’s hard to define – kind of a greeny, goldy, yellow? In some situations it’s just about fluro, in others it comes across almost olive.
Almost devoid of logos and with full internal cabling, it’s certainly a sleek frame. One frame feature that grabbed our eye immediately is the integrated bump-stop/headset assembly which prevents your bars from spinning in a crash, potentially saving your top tube and your brake lines too.
Canyon’s direct model of course lets them keep the prices down, and for $6299 the Spectral is kitted out magnificently with a SRAM X01 drivetrain and RockShox’s top-end Pike RTC3. Mavic’s CrossMax XL Pro wheelset is the kind of item you don’t often find on many stock bikes, adding a real bit of flash to the build. The tyres are Mavic’s ultra-sticky Quest rubber as well.
Canyon supply a card with a recommended baseline tune for the Cane Creek DB In-Line rear shock, to help you navigate the myriad settings available. We’ve found ourselves frustrated with this shock in the past, so we’re hoping for a good experience this time around as the bike clearly has some serious potential to shred. A full review will be coming your way soon!
YT’s rise as a brand as been meteoric, from an unknown upstart to now sponsoring some of the absolute biggest names in the sport, like Aaron Gwin and Cam Zink. But while their image and branding is fantastic and their products great (we loved our time on the Capra, read the full review here), up until now they’ve lacked a bike with real mass market appeal. With the arrival of the new Jeffsy, their quirkily named 29er trail bike, that could all be about to change.
Quite frankly, YT had us the moment we saw this video. It’s quite possibly the sickest bike launch vid we’ve ever seen – the way Aaron Gwin and Cam Zink ride a 29er trail bike will make you laugh out loud with incredulity.
The Jeffsy is a 140mm-travel 29er. Yes, a big-wheeler, which is certainly not what we would associate with YT’s gravity-inspired roots and image. YT themselves admit that when they set out to make a trail bike, they didn’t expect that they’d end up designed a 29er, but that it proved to be the right platform for creating a shorter travel bike that could still shred hard.
The Jeffsy uses the Virtual 4 Link suspension found on the Capra, which we found to have a super progressive rate that is really targeted at hard riding. Geometry-wise, the Jeffsy is exactly as you’d expect; quite slack, a low bottom bracket, 435mm stays (440mm on the large and x-large frames) and plenty of reach up front. There’s geometry adjustment via a simple Flip Chip system too. We also like the Thirstmaster 3000, a specific water bottle and cage to fit the Jeffsy frame.
There are going to be six models in the Jeffsy range, from $3799 for the base model alloy-framed Jeffsy up to the carbon Pro model at $8099.
We’re looking forward to getting a ride in on this bike in the coming weeks. The Capra was a lot of fun, but too much bike for most of our local trails, so the Jeffsy could be the right tool for the job. You can read more on YT’s site, right here.
The 27.5″ M8020 wheels we’ve got on test come from the ‘Trail’ line of XT components (most XT components are available in either Race or Trail variants), so they’re built tough and the design is quite a departure from XT wheels we’ve ridden in the past. If you’re a 29er rider, never fear, they come in a ‘size large’ too. Like all Shimano’s high-end wheels, these guys are hand built from start to finish.
First up, the M8020 rims get a welcome increase in width. They now measure up at 24mm internally, which should afford more stability to big tyres run at lower pressures. 24mm still puts them on the narrow end of the spectrum for a trail-specific wheelset, but it’s a good improvement over previous versions. The rim is offset too, which allows for more even spoke tensions between the drive and non-drive side spokes, ultimately making for a stronger wheel.
Previous versions of the XT wheels had a sealed rim bed, which required the use of a funky, threaded, screw-in spoke nipple, but this has been abandoned in favour of a tubeless rim tape to seal the spoke holes. Moving to a more conventional arrangement like this allows the use of regular spoke nipples for repairs, plus the rim can be made lighter too.
The hubs retain Shimano’s user-friendly cup and cone bearing system. It can serviced with just a couple of cone spanners and a lick of grease by most home mechanics. They’re not light hubs, but anyone who has tried to remove a cassette from a chewed up a lightweight alloy freehub body will happily accept a few extra grams associated with the steel freehub found on the XT wheels. We clocked the pair in at 1910g on the Flow dream-crusher scales.
We’ve mounted these wheels to our Trek Fuel EX 9.8 long-term test bike, and fitted them with a set of Bontrager SE3 tyres, which have the same tread pattern as the XR3 just with slightly tougher sidewalls. It should be a good combo, and we’re looking forward to asking them some lumpy questions on our rocky home trails.
The Sight C7.2, and the rest of the Norco Sight range, are available from 99 Bikes at some pretty sharp, reduced prices. Take a look!
[divider]What is it, and who is it for?[/divider]
The Norco Sight is a rowdy little bike, available in a big range of price points, in both alloy and carbon versions. It feels like a go-kart on the trails (albeit with monster-truck tyres), and it loves to pick apart your favourite sections of trail and encourage you to ride them in new ways. It really hits the sweet spot for hard riding; 140mm/150mm travel, with geometry that’s 100% built for playfulness on the trail. Our test bike is just one rung from the top in the Sight range with a pretty hefty $7249 price tag, but the same geometry and attitude flows all the way down to the alloy Sight A 7.2 for $3499.
This bike looks great, and the beauty of the carbon frame runs more than paint deep (and we really do like the colour).
Four-bar efficiency: The Sight’s four-bar linkage suspension delivers 140mm of efficient travel, using the Cane Creek Double Barrel In-Line shock. Norco incorporate a fair bit of anti-squat into their suspension design, with an axle path that’s noticeably rearward moving in the early part of the travel. This makes them pedal exceptionally well for a pretty plush overall ride, at the expense of a bit of pedal feedback when putting down the power in rougher situations.
Size-specific geometry: Norco’s Gravity Tune geometry is seen throughout much of their range. In a nutshell, as the frame size increases, so to does the rear-centre measurement of the bike, whereas in traditional sizing only the front end of the bike gets longer in bigger sizes. It’s all about keeping the rider’s body weight in the right position relative to both wheels, and on our medium sized test bike the chain stay measures up at a short 427mm. The head angle is 66.9 degrees, which is fairly standard in this realm, and a reach measurement of 415mm is paired to a 65mm stem.
Cables and water bottle both get a tick: Having room for a full-sized water bottle is a big plus for those humid summer days when you start oozing sweat at the mere thought of wearing a pack. Norco have handled the internal cabling well, with rubber grommets keeping the cables tamed and ensuring clean, rub-free routing around the head tube. The ports into the frame are actually quite roomy too, which reduces head aches should you need to stuff around with the internal cables later.
Why the front derailleur provisions? No one who buys this bike will be popping a front derailleur on it. It would’ve been classier if Norco had used an ISCG mounted chain guide, ditched the ugly mount and cable routing ports for a front mech on this version of the Sight.
In 2015, the Sight had 140mm front and rear. But if lots is good, more must be better, and so in 2016 the Pike RC fork is bumped up to 150mm. The rear end doesn’t change, it still gets 140mm delivered via the potentially confounding Cane Creek DB Inline rear shock. We’ve got a funny relationship with this shock… there’s a lot of performance there, but getting the best out of it takes patience. Given that we normally only have a bike for a few weeks during testing, we often feel we like we’re always working on getting things ‘just right’.
With independent control over high and low-speed compression and high and low-speed rebound (plus a Climb Switch) there’s huge potential to get the rear end feeling great with the CCDB, but it’s a long process, and we can imagine there are a lot of riders out there who either a) never use any of the adjustments or b) use the adjustments without the knowledge to do so and end up with a shock that’s set up poorly. Arguably the performance benefits are there, but are they comparatively enough versus say a FOX or RockShox which usually only takes a ride or two to get dialled? We’re not sure… That said, Norco do provide recommended baseline settings for the shock, so as long as you don’t vary too far from these, you’re likely to be pretty good.
In comparison, the fork is a joy to work with. The recommended pressure guide is usually quite accurate, the rebound rate is easy to adjust, and the bike is supplied with RockShox’s Bottomless Tokens which can be fitted in just a couple of minutes to get the suspension rate how you like it. We love the Pike.
Initially we adjusted the rear shock to the recommended settings (17mm sag), but we did find this left the bike riding a little low in its travel for our liking much of the time, so the pressure was bumped up a little to give us around 14mm sag. Based on our previous experience with the Pike, we fitted one Bottomless Token and ran the recommended air pressure for our weight.
The super-aggressive Schwalbe Magic Mary front tyre is a lot of rubber to push around most trails, but its grip levels will save your arse in so many situations it’s impossible not to love it. DT’s E512 rims needed tubeless rim strips and valves to set up as tubeless, neither of which were included with the bike, a shame. The rims are reasonably wide at 25mm internally, and we felt comfortable running the tyres in the low-mid twenties.
Some short cuts, given the price: With the drop in the Australian dollar, we’ve seen prices go up a fair bit across the industry, and Norco hasn’t been immune unfortunately. Even still, we’re surprised that the Sight doesn’t get the more expensive RCT3 version of the Pike, and we’d have expected a carbon bar for this price too.
Fantastic rubber: Schwalbe’s gummy tyres occasionally come under fire for being less than durable, but so far so good for the Nobby Nic / Magic Mary on the Sight. These tyres are a great combo – the Nic’s tread pattern is like a scaled back version of the absurdly aggressive Mary up front, and together they dig into just about anything. We did notice they felt a little slow on fireroad climbs, but that’s not why you buy this bike. We really like that Norco has specced the tougher Snake Skin version of these treads too.
Great drivetrain with extra security: Adding a chain guide to SRAM X1 drivetrain mightn’t be necessary, but we still think it’s a good idea as it only takes one inopportune dropped chain to make your groin and stem awfully familiar. The shifting quality is perfect, every time. Blindfold us and we’d battle to tell the difference between X1 and the far more expensive XX1.
Top notch brakes with neat clamp integration: Using SRAM Match Maker clamps for the brakes/shifter/dropper means the cockpit is more orderly than North Korean military parade, and the stopping power and lever feel of the Guide RS brakes is hard to top.
If you like to view the trail as a playground, rather than a route from A to B, then the Sight will appeal. This is a bike that makes you want to flick the rear wheel about like a cut snake, and generally go over, not through, whatever is in front of your wheels.
Dropping low down into a turn with the rear end sliding is how the Sight likes to approach every corner, and thanks to the crazy amounts of grip up front you’re pretty much guaranteed you won’t lose the front end. Short stays and an overall compact feel make it an easy one to pop into the air, or get on its back wheel with a stab on the pedals to tackle tricky climbs or ledges. While the bike itself is efficient in terms of pedalling, the way we found ourselves riding the Sight was anything but! It’s quite a light bike, and it doesn’t bog down under power so you’re always up out of the saddle sprinting at things, trying to drift, looking for the fun lines, not the fast ones – most of our rides on the Sight topped out at about an hour and a half, not through any fault of the bike’s, but because we spent so much energy just doing fun, stupid things.
The Sight proved to be really comfortable and quiet when taking some big impacts too. We found ourselves remarking time and again just how solid and unflappable everything felt when touching down from some pretty decent six-foot plus drops. There’s a really reassuring, progressive feel to the suspension; the shock uses all its travel but doesn’t crash into the end of its stroke, and the Pike fork feels like it’ll munch up the big hits all day.
At slower speeds, we initially didn’t feel as overwhelmed by the Sight’s suspension, but we feel that the recommended shock setup was to blame. Using the recommended baseline settings provided by Cane Creek, we felt like the rear end was getting a bit ‘stuck’ when trying to keep momentum on slower, lumpy sections of trail. Speeding up the low-speed rebound to keep the bike a little bit more lively and riding higher in its stroke helped.
The Sight is a reliable, steady climber, especially if you use the shock’s Climb Switch, which both stiffens the suspension and increases the damping on the low-speed rebound circuit too. It’s a super effective climbing setting, and with the big contact patch of the Schwalbe Nobby Nic climbing traction is excellent. It’s not a roomy bike to climb on, so we did push the seat back a little to lengthen the climbing position, as well as lowering the bars to put more weight over the axle and tame the tame the front wheel wandering.
While the Norco Sight C7.2 isn’t the value-for-money front runner it was in years past, its performance certainly hasn’t dropped off one iota. This bike will bring a big grin to your face anytime the trail turns twisty or there’s potential to get into the air. If your budget won’t stretch to this model, there are three Sights at lower price points to choose from too, all of which keep the same playful geometry and vibe.
The Avanti Torrent CS 7.2 is a bike for riders who believe that awesome descents have to be earned. For 2015, the Torrent is available with a carbon front end for the first time and with componentry that make it an outstanding bike in its category.
The clean-looking Torrent has aggressive geometry, and 150mm of FOX-perfected suspension with a 34mm stanchion-fork (a welcome upgrade from last year’s 32mm fork). The bike is kept nice and slack – a 66.5-degree head angle – without pushing into the realms of slackness that’ll make it handle like a ride-on lawn mower on the climbs.
Straight out of the box, the bike weighs in at 13.5kg (before converting it to tubeless – valves are included), which does put it on the slightly heavy side for an all-mountain bike with a carbon front end. The Torrent comes equipped with an aggressive-style cockpit, running super wide Easton 750mm bars and a 35mm stem. The drivetrain is a 2×10 setup, using an XT derailleur on the rear, but with a chain guide to keep things secure. The e*thirteen TRS 2 crankset isn’t one we see often, but these are a tough set of cranks. The DT wheelset is a very tidy affair, with a crisp sounding Star Ratchet equipped rear hub, even if the rims aren’t as wide as we’re getting accustomed to on this style of bike. We’re interested to see how the Kenda tyres go too, as we’ve only ridden the Honey Badger tyre once before, and then on the rear only.
Avanti have focused on eliminating frame flex to give maximum handling precision and confidence. The rear end is stiff as frozen arthritis, with a welded rocker link combined with the Syntax X12 thru-axle system. This frame ain’t twisting.
At $5,499.95, this bike is appropriately priced, especially given the carbon front end and quality running gear, while preserving the scope for weight-saving upgrades down the track. The Avanti Torrent CS 7.2 definitely looks like a great evolution from previous versions we’ve ridden over the years.
Athlete registration for Crankworx Rotorua opens this Thursday at 9 a.m New Zealand time. This includes registration for the Giant Toa Enduro and the Crankworx Downhill. Organisers are expecting tickets to sell like hot cakes, which is not suprising considering the calibre of trails on offer. Last year we documented the top ten trails in Rotorua- be warned though, if you watch this you will be flying to Rotorua this March! See you there!
While you’re in Rotorua, you should also lay down some rubber on the Skyline trails. We’ve been lucky enough to rip many a lap after the cruisy Gondola ride up, and the break from pedalling is a great contrast to the Redwood trails.
See below for the official word on who has already entered and how to lock in your own spot!
Registration for the first two events of the inaugural Crankworx Rotorua opens 9 a.m. NZDT Thursday, January 22 and those lucky enough to secure a spot can expect to ride with the best.
Athletes interested in racing the Toa Enduro Rotorua, sponsored by Giant Bicycles, and the Crankworx Rotorua Downhill presented by iXS this March can sign up online through the Enduro World Series and Crankworx websites respectively, beginning at 9 a.m. New Zealand Daylight Time (9 p.m. CET Jan. 21 and noon PST Jan. 21).
According to the Enduro Mountain Bike Association, interest in the EWS among the factory teams has grown exponentially for this third season of the series with a record number signing on to race.
Crankworx Rotorua director Takurua Mutu says last year, the EWS stop in Chile sold out in three minutes and Rotorua is expecting an equally quick response.
“This is going to be an epic event, so we want to make sure all athletes competing for an open entry spot are ready when registration opens,” he says.
All of the elite EWS racers from 2014 have registered, including EWS World Champions Jared Graves and Tracy Moseley. Sidelined by injury for most of last season, Jerome Clementz, 2013 EWS champion, is signed up to race, as is Fabien Barel, who returned from breaking his back to win the last round of the 2014 series in Italy.
Several World Cup Downhill racers, who are not regular competitors in the Enduro World Series, are also vying for a podium spot. Sam Hill, Steve Peat, Greg Minnaar, Troy Brosnan, Brook MacDonald, and Sam Blenkinsop have all registered for this first EWS race of 2015.
The window to secure a spot for the Crankworx Rotorua Downhill presented by iXS is not expected to be as tight, but it too will sell out quickly.
“What makes Crankworx special is the opportunity for the amateur athlete to ride on the same track, in the same race, on the same day as the world’s top professionals. We are encouraging those who want to race to register quickly,” says Mutu.
Selection and sign-up for the other four competitive Crankworx Rotorua events also gets underway this week. Those events include the Australasian Whip-off Champs, the Rotorua Pump Track Challenge presented by RockShox, the Dual Speed and Style and the Crankworx Rotorua Slopestyle.
Please note registration will occur on New Zealand Daylight Time (NZTD) and athletes will need to consult the international time clock converter to find appropriate time for their home region. To register for the following events, follow the link:
Australasian Whip-off Champs: Competition. March 25. Registration to take place onsite just prior to the event.
Rotorua Pump Track Challenge Presented by RockShox: Race March 26. This is an invitational event featuring some of the top World Cup DH and Slopestyle riders. Other professional riders wishing to compete, both male and female, can email [email protected] to request an invitation.
Dual Speed and Style: Competition. March 26. Invitational. Confirmed rider list coming soon.
Crankworx Rotorua Slopestyle: Competition. March 29. Invitational. Confirmed rider list coming soon.
Holy seared eyeballs! Say hello to the new Orbea Rallon XR30, the brightest star in this Spanish company’s mountain bike line up, and the only bike that’s visible from space.
Orbea have traditionally been renowned for their excellent road and triathlon bikes, and in years past their dual suspension mountain bikes have had all the appeal of a haggis breakfast. But the Rallon signals a new era for this prestigious brand – this bike is right on the money and right on trend.
The Rallon is another addition to the so-hot-right-now all-mountain/enduro category; 160mm-travel, 27.5” wheels, geometry that’s happiest when the earth slopes down, but with the gearing and suspension efficiency needed to methodically gobble up the climbs too.
The suspension design is a neat faux-bar arrangement, with a concentric dropout pivot, similar to that found on Trek’s ABP system. This setup helps negate the effect of braking forces on the suspension, meaning more grip and a more settled ride when you jam on the anchors after you get blinded by your own top tube and overshoot a corner. FOX’s CTD shock (2.5” stroke) takes care of business with simplicity and reliability galore. It’s well located for easy access to the CTD lever too, which is handy on the climbs.
It’s disappointing that Orbea spec this model of Rallon with a skinny quick-release rear skewer. The dropouts have inserts that allow you to run a 142x12mm through-axle hub, but this really should be out-of-the-box equipment on a bike like this. Similarly, it’d be nice to see more robust bearings at the dropout pivot too; this area is under a lot of stress, and the slim bearings look a little under-gunned.
We like the Rallon’s excellent standover height. While it’s a fairly large bike overall, the dropped top tube keeps it feeling unobtrusive between your knees, like wearing a sarong when you’re used to jeans. Given the frame’s front triangle design, it’s odd that there’s no bottle mounts, meaning you’ll need to run a backpack, or put up with an amazing dehydration head ache.
Orbea have hit all the right numbers with the Rallon’s geometry. Short 420mm chain stays make for a lively ride, and the head angle / bottom bracket height can be tweaked to suit your tastes via the simple, clean offset forward shock mount.
The Rallon’s spec is designed to hit a competitive price point, and on the whole it succeeds in giving riders who don’t have a squillion dollar budget a great all-mountain experience.
If we had to pick a highlight, it’d be the suspension; the FOX fork and shock are excellent. Both items are easy to setup, and work with the zen-like harmony of a good dragon boat crew. The other fundamentals which have a huge impact on the ride are also nailed, with a great RaceFace cockpit and top-notch Maxxis rubber. With a confident cockpit, good rubber and great suspension, you’ve got a solid foundation that won’t hold you back in any situation.
Of course, we’d have loved to have seen a dropper post on this bike, but that would push up the price. Still, a dropper would be the first upgrade we’d make (the frame has cable routing provisions for an internal post). Second on the list would be the wheels; the Mavic 321 rims are rather narrow, and aren’t tubeless friendly, plus the rear hub is a cheapy with poor sealing. We’d suggest riding these wheels until they turn into octagons in a year or two’s time, then upgrading to something wider and tubeless ready.
The Rallon, by virtue of its great geometry and suspension, is an easy bike to trust. With a hefty 14.65kg weight and heavy wheels, momentum is your best friend; stay off the brakes, let the suspension and tyres work their magic. If you get bogged down, it takes a bit of muscle to get thing back up to speed.
A solid, precise front end rewards bold line choices, though sometimes we did a feel bit of a wag in the tail – the difference in stiffness between the front 15mm axle and the quick release rear is obvious on rough corners.
In spite of its weight, the Rallon manages to remain pretty playful in the tight stuff. A tall-ish front end and the short stays make it easy to get the front end in the air, and the Rallon surprised us with its agility and perfectly composed little drifts through singletrack corners. The bitey Maxxis High Roller up front holds tight, letting the rear scoot on through with grin-inducing slides.
Climbing is what it is. The Rallon will get it done, but you’ll sweat a bit along the way. Make use of the CTD lever and settle in for a spin to the top. Without a dropper post, you invariably end up running the seat a centimetre or two lower than optimum height (or else you’re constantly hopping on and off to adjust it for every descent) so just chill out on the climbs – this bike’s all about the descents anyhow.
As an entry-level all-mountain machine, the Rallon passes with flying fluro colours. The fundamentals are all there; geometry, suspension, confidence-inspiring components – a few simple upgrades down the track, like a dropper post and tubeless wheels, will make this bike really sing.
Shimano shoes are fantastic pieces of kit, with particularly legendary durability. But while Shimano have always made great cross-country shoes, and some great downhill shoes, the brand hasn’t really had an offering that was aimed specifically at the trail rider; you could choose either a stiff-soled cross country shoe, or a softer, but much bulkier, downhill shoe and not much in between.
But now Shimano have filled that void, with two new shoes aimed at the trail/all-mountain market (ie. the kind of riding that most of us do day to day). One of these new shoes is the M163 (the other is the M200 – previewed here) – well-priced, understated and beautifully fitted shoes that we’ve been sullying with our stinky leg ends for the last couple of months.
While it’s too early to comment on whether or not this shoe lives up to Shimano’s usual standards of durability, we can definitely deliver a verdict on how this shoe fits and performs.
The M163 uses Shimano’s new TORBAL (Torsional Balance) system, which basically allows the shoes to offer a good degree of longitudinal flex through the midsole so you can roll your foot side to side and get better pedal feel, but retain pedalling stiffness under the ball of your foot. TORBAL, despite sounding like the name of a robotic dog, works like a charm and there’s great support on offer where it counts, but without any of that isolating woodenness that can come from a really stiff shoe.
The Cross X-Strap and ratchet buckle closure provides a supple and secure fit, which ensures that your foot never feels like its floating or squirming in the shoe – as you roll your foot around in a corner, the upper moves with it, rather than your foot simply slipping about inside the shoe.
We particularly appreciate the longer-than-normal cleat positioning slot thingos, which allow you to run the cleat a long way back. Normally on a Shimano shoe, we have the cleat at the very back of its adjustment range, but on the M163s we’re closer to the middle. Having a more rearward cleat position puts less leverage on your ankles if you’re riding aggressively and landing hard. A handy little insert is also provided to plug up the large cleat holes and stop excessive mud or water getting in.
The M163 is built for a bit of rock scrambling too, with a fully rubberised sole – a blessing if you miss a pedal entry – and slim armouring around the generous toe box as well. Its big tread blocks aren’t super tacky like on some shoes (such as the Five Ten shoes we recently tested), but they are malleable and grippy all the same.
These are really ideal shoes for the masses, and exactly what we’ve been looking for from the big S; put ’em on, ride ’em up, ride ’em down, kick ’em about and repeat for many years.
There are many ways to skin a cat! Over the past few months we’ve had the pleasure of riding some great new-season all-mountain bikes. While these bikes share a few commonalities – 140-160mm travel and 27.5″ wheels for instance – they demonstrate that there’s more than one way to build a great bike. Alloy, carbon, steep, slack, single-pivot, four-bar, firm, soft…. take a closer look at this eclectic bunch.
BH Lynx 6 27.5 Carbon
When you really slam it, you’ll find plenty of support to the ride, so it’s still responsive when other bikes would be feeling bogged down by the rough riding. Basically, go ahead and treat the bike like it insulted your sister, it’ll take it.
For the kind of steep, techy descending that most riders will be doing, the N9 is brilliant. It’s a fun bike in corners too, making easy work of tighter trails that would bog a lot of other bikes in this category down.
With its robust build, perfect all-mountain geometry and suspension that just gets better the harder you ride, it’s a bike for those who prioritise confidence and downhill performance over low weight and glitz.
The Scott Genius is one of the few bikes that for many years has successfully blurred the lines of the genres that define bike styles. Its versatility bends the rules, and manages to do what a true all mountain bike should – open up possibilities and options to the rider, begging for adventure.
The overall fit and feel of the 575 hasn’t changed one bit – think your favourite track suit pants; instantly comfortable. It has a relaxed, slightly upright position that is best suited to big days in the saddle and which takes absolutely no effort to get used to.
What do you get if you combine 29″ wheels and 140mm of suspension travel? Momentum.
Add to that a big set of tyres, wide bars, a dropper post and a RockShox Pike and you’ve got a lot of bike in your hands, the Carbine 29 aint messing about. It’s not often we see 29″ wheels with this amount of suspension, as it can make for a cumbersome and isolating bike that is hard to manoeuvre around tight trails, but some brands have been doing it well lately with the development of carbon frames giving designers more freedom. Big travel 29ers are a blast to ride, and especially capable when the trails are mighty rough, or you are a rider with some height.
The benchmark of long travel 29ers could well be the Specialized Enduro 29 with its ridiculously short chain stay length and lack of weight, but the Carbine 29 comes with an air of Californian classic prestige and looks to die for, so let’s see how it goes.
Flow received the 2015 Carbine 29 Expert which retails for $7799, it’s positioned snugly below the Pro ($7999) and Factory ($11999) versions using the same frame with different kit. The Factory model is one seriously intense Intense! Check out the range of options here: http://intensecycles.com/portfolio-item/carbine-29-2015/
Intense’s have been frame-only options for quite some time, so we welcome complete bike options all the way over here, Down Under. It’s plain to see that the parts have been chosen carefully to give the rider the best possible experience, with compatibility and model specific choices paramount, with feedback from guys like Chris Kovarik and Brian Lopes lending their experience with spec choice input.
The Carbine is an all carbon frame with machined aluminium linkages that make up the VPP – Virtual Pivot Point suspension design. Intense use VPP across their wide range of suspension frames which gives the rear wheel a specific amount of vertical and rearward travel, all in an attempt to garner a terrain devouring machine that maintains pedal efficiency.
For 2015 a new carbon rear end makes its way on to the Carbine, with a very attractive and burly set of dropouts. The new rear section is said to be stiffer and more streamlined than the previous one, so far we certainly agree with the streamline call, it’s a real looker.
The Expert level build kit is pretty tidy, with a Shimano drivetrain and brakes, but an odd omission is the absence is an on-the-fly compression adjustment on the rear shock but we’ll see if we miss it.
It has to be said, that the colour matching is real class, accentuated by the striking pairing of orange and red, not often seen in the mountain bike world.
Later this week, Flow’s boarding the big white budgie and heading to Queenstown, New Zealand, for a few days of exploring the trails of that famed adventure wonderland. Queenstown offers up a whopping mixed bag of trails, but the gravity riding is the real highlight, with gondola-accessed downhill tracks and mammoth heli-biking back-country epics.
For this mission,we knew we wanted to take a bike that wouldn’t wring its hands when presented with some pretty full-on terrain. Our usual Flow Nation bikes, while superb trail bikes, just don’t have the travel for downhill work, so we had a look at some other options. This bike grabbed us by the lapels and screamed in our face: “PICK ME!”
The Slash is Trek’s most aggressive platform before you leap into the full-on downhill realm with the Session. It’s a real gravity enduro machine – we’d shirk to call it an all-mountain bike, because its performance heavily skewed towards descending. Heavily skewed, but not heavy: this 160mm-travel beast weighs in at 12.7kg. Its angles are all about stability when it’s fast and steep, with a head angle that’s adjustable between 65.5 and a 65-degrees.
Piloting a 65-degree head angle uphill is sometimes a bit like pushing a wheel barrow with a flat tyre full of water; it’s a pain in the arse to keep on track. So to sharpen climbing performance up, the Slash has a travel-adjustable Pike that lowers the bars and sharpens the steering a bit.
We’ve fallen in love with the performance of Bontrager’s XR4 tyres. These things hang on like a cat over water, especially when they’re mounted to a wide rim, like the Bontrager Maverick. We’re predicting a lot of grip!
It’s almost odd seeing a Trek dual suspension bike that’s not equipped with the FOX DRCV shock we’ve come to know so well. While we like the DRCV shock, we do think that the Rockshox Monarch Plus is a better option for this bike; it has a bigger air and oil volume, and more progressive spring rate than the proprietary FOX dual-chamber shock, so it’s better suited to hard, rough long runs.
With four days of EnZed’s finest coming our way, we think we should be able to give the Slash a pretty good shake down and get our head around its strengths and weaknesses. A review will be coming your way, maybe even before Santa arrives.
The new Mojo HD (HD3 for short) is the third act in the Mojo HD/Mojo HDR trailbike trilogy. Everything is new from the ground-up, notably featuring the latest and greatest refinement of the famed dw-link suspension.
Geometry is fully modern: longer, lower and slacker, with 6” of plush rear wheel travel. We’ve built in versatile internal routing and updated the frame design, allowing us to put a water bottle on top of the downtube. We also achieve a drop in weight and pedaling performance on par with the Ripley, so the bike is very fast going up, and scary fast going down.
FEATURES OF THE MOJO HD
650b (27.5″) wheels
The most advanced version of the dw-link suspension on the planet
6” of rear wheel travel
Weight for the frame and shock, size large, matte finish: 5.9 lbs
67 degree head angle with a 150mm fork (66.6º with 160 fork)
Shock specs: Fox Float CTD Adjust Factory Series with Kashima Coat, 7.875″ x 2.25″, 175lb boost, med velocity, med rebound, LV can, .92in3 volume spacer,
Optional shock: Cane Creek DBinline
ISCG 05 compatible with removable adapter
Threaded bottom bracket
Super versatile internal cable routing including internal dropper routing.
Optional polycarbonate down tube cable guard
Chain stay length: 16.9″
12 x 142mm Maxle rear axle
160mm post mount left dropout, carbon fiber
Tapered Head Tube and Steerer
Up to 2.4″ rear tire depending on brand and height of cornering knobs
Dual row angular contact bearings on the drive side of the lower link that have less play than standard sealed bearings. Preload adjustment is not necessary. Large 28mm x 15mm x 7mm radial bearings on the non drive side for stiffness and long wear
Bottom Bracket height 13.4″
Removable direct mount front derailleur mount for a clean 1X look
This radioactive number is best viewed in person, wearing sunglasses. The bike arrived on a glorious summer’s day, but the superb sunshine was outdone by the Orbea’s unique paint job, these photos don’t do the bike justice, it’s seriously flouro.
Orbea are a Spanish brand that was founded in 1840, so the Rallon comes with nearly two centuries of manufacturing know-how. Despite this, Orbea have only been producing noteworthy mountain bikes in recent years, with their older models riding like mountain bikes designed by weight conscious roadies – not a great combination.
The new Rallon is a serious looking beast, packing a burly 160mm of travel at both ends. The alloy tubing looks chunky and durable, the pivots are similarly robust looking and the cabling down the centre of the downtube with minimal internal routing is a smart and maintenance friendly option. One design aspect we especially appreciate for a bike likely to be bashed around ride after ride is abundant frame protection, and the Rallon delivers with a long downtube guard ending just under the bottom bracket and a chainstay guard that protects both sides of the chain stay – a sign that lots of thought has gone into the specific intentions of the bike.
The component spec for the most part is smart and sensible for the Rallon’s early 3000 dollar price point. The RaceFace/SLX drivetrain combo ensures both durability and reliability whilst the FOX front and rear suspension combo is a proven winner for quality suspension on a budget.
Here at Flow we can live without the Formula brakes- we’d take a set of bulletproof Shimanos any day- but we feel this component choice is a nod to the bikes European heritage.
The Mavic en321 wheel set are on the heavy side on first impressions but the true test will be how they handle unloving testing through rough terrain. The 2×10 drivetrain, whilst seemingly out of favour with the majority of riders enchanted by the wonders of 1x, is in our opinion an excellent decision for the Rallon due to its weighty nature in comparison with more expensive, 1x equipped models.
Finally, the RaceFace cockpit is a winner- short and wide- exactly what todays All-Mountain riding requires.
Geometry wise, the Rallon is already telling us that it’s ready to rally the descents. Short 420mm stays should make it a rocket through the corners, but the long 1172mm wheelbase will offer stability at high speeds. The X30 comes with slightly more stability oriented geometry than the more expensive models, which is a good thing for the bikes target audience.
There is a simple geometry adjustment option via a reversible chip at the front shock mount, something we are fond of, should we choose to experiment with slackening or sharpening the bike’s angles. All in all though, the setup looks ready to shreddy!
Look out for a full review soon, we’re really looking forward to seeing how a more budget orientated all –mountain bike handles all of the technical riding Sydney has to offer!
Oh, it’s also available in black and white coloured frame, which may be a better option if you have extra sensitive eyeballs.
Five Ten shoes are best known for their gummy soled flat pedal shoes, the brand also has a long history in rock climbing where grip is paramount to keeping you hanging on and your bones intact. Their first foray into clipless pedals was received with mixed reviews, criticised for being heavy and clunky. Fast forward to present, and their Impact VXi has become a popular shoe for the enduro, trail and downhill crowd.
Stepping away from the traditional triple velcro strap shoes that have saturated the market for most of mountain biking’s short life, we are seeing more casually styled shoes with a slightly less stiff sole. Best paired with a trail style pedal like the Shimano XT M785 or Crank Bros Mallet, a flat soled shoe can help your riding excel in more ways than just standing around off the bike.
First thing to note is the Five Ten’s slightly peculiar looks, a bit like shoes you buy from the chemist, but that seem to become less so obvious when worn and they grew on us over time. The solid black shape and big velcro strap sure make them look special but are important features to their high performance. The lack of perforated or mesh material helps keep water out, and the velcro serves to keep the laces out of the way and locks in the secure fit.
Laces may seem a bit old school with many high end shoes using velcro straps, ratchet buckles or the lightweight BOA dials, but in this case the laces pull a nice and even tension across the foot to create a snug fit without tight or loose spots. The laces are long, but kept out of harms way under the velcro strap. When wet they don’t become too heavy like we’ve been used to with the old Shimano DX shoes which must triple in weight when riding in the rain.
What we like most about the gummy sole, is that it boosts your confidence when tackling tricky sections of trails. If you need to dab a foot, or you don’t quite make it up or down a section of rocky, slippery trail you can rest assured that if you plant your foot down to regain balance your foot won’t slip, pretty much any surface these shoes feel stable and planted. That’s something you just don’t get with your typical clipless shoe with a spiky hard rubber sole.
During our first ride we attempted climbing up steep and rocky chutes with a little more confidence knowing that if we wouldn’t quite make it safely and had to unclip and step backwards off the bike, we wouldn’t fall.
Flow’s local trails in Sydney require a bit of off-the-bike pushing, climbing up rocks and even swinging off ropes at times. There is no shoe better for this, they won’t send you sliding down a rock face with your bike making horrid metal scraping sounds, you’ll be glued to the earth nicely. The cleats aren’t as recessed into the sole as most shoes are though, so you’ll definitely hear them clicking along as you walk.
Fit wise they are pretty good. Up the front of the shoe there is a lot of room, so be warned if you have particular narrow feet, as there could well be too much room and you’ll be clenching your toes to stop your foot moving around inside the shoe which makes for tiring riding. The heel is snugly set into the shoe and didn’t pull up at all when pushing bikes or walking about. The mid foot is also quite snug which accentuates their feeling of being very wide up front, wider than anything we’ve used recently. We were able to slide the cleats a long way back in the slots, the generous range of fore and aft adjustment here is worth noting.
With the big cycling footwear brands like Shimano, Specialized and Bontrager for example really pushing footbed customisation and adjustable arch and metatarsal options, it’s a shame to see Five Ten not offering any fit customising options. So, if you’re one with high arches or flat feet you may need to BYO your own insoles, and from our experiences, they do feel fairly flat under the foot when riding.
Protection is excellent, in comparison to the softer sole Teva Links shoes we love and continue to wear, the protection especially around the front is a real toe saver. That moment when you plant your foot around a corner and kick a rock ain’t nice, so you don’t need to worry about that when you step into these guys.
Stiffness is spot on for this type of shoe, we are all about ‘feeling’ the bike underneath you. A carbon soled cross country racing shoe has the tendency to isolate you from your bike, but these guys give you just the right amount of bend and allow you to turn and move the bike around with your feet.
We’d happily wear these all day, the balance between pedal efficiency, comfort on and off the bike, looks and protection make them a great alternative to the traditional cross country shoes we’re used to.
Five years ago, we’d rather have shared a car ride to Melbourne with a pack of angry wasps than have ridden a Polygon. Clearly that ain’t so any longer. This brand has undergone a transformation more pronounced than Rene Zellweger’s face; and while we preferred the old Rene, the definitely prefer the new Polygon. Right here we’ve got the all-new Collosus N9, the very same bike the Hutchinson / United Riders teams have been racing in the Enduro World Series.
“Holy Moses! Is that the new Polygon?” was the standard response from all who laid eyes on this savagely futuristic looking piece of kit, usually followed by the question, “what’s it like?” Well, we’ll tell you.
If the world suddenly starts to run low on carbon fibre, you can blame Polygon. The new Collosus N9 is has some of most incredibly complex, but perfectly executed, carbon frame shapes we’ve ever seen – Tom Ritchey and Gary Fisher certainly didn’t envisage that bikes would ever look like this! It’s clear that Polygon have looked for opportunities to shape this frame is ways that would have been basically impossible in aluminium. While they’re at it, they’ve equipped the Polygon with some of the most intricate frame graphics out there. Look closely and you’ll see some incredibly detailed graphics subtly adorning the less visible parts of the frame – very cool.
This 160mm-travel machine has a compact look about it, and the frame numbers reflect this, with the wheelbase a couple of centimetres shorter than many of its competitors. The chain stays are 430mm (fun), and the top tube is 590mm (a little short), while the head angle is 66.3 degrees (ideal). But numbers don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing, and there’ll be plenty of time to chat about that later.
Polygon have employed their FS03 suspensions system, which is another variant of a four-bar linkage. The lower link arcs over the bottom bracket shell, driving the shock, which is also squished by the stubby upper link. (The design is actually a little similar to the Quad Link II arrangement previously used by Whyte bikes, but the Polygon’s lower link is located closer to the bottom bracket, which makes for less pedal feedback – winner.) The most striking aspect of the design is the extremely long ‘seat stay’; while most four-bar linkage designs have an upper link mounted off the seat tube, the Polygon’s upper link is way forward. This uninterrupted curve of the seat stay looks insane, but it does present design challenges in terms of keeping it all stiff. Giving the rear end a quick waggle reveals that even the use of huge pivot axles and an E-Thru 142x12mm axle can’t get rid of the inherent flex of this design. But as we’ve noted many times, a bit of wobble in the carpark doesn’t necessarily mean a thing on the trail.
With such a complicated looking frame, Polygon have managed to declutter things by routing all the cables internally, keeping them clear of the frame so there’s no rub at any point either. External routing options are in place for a dropper post, should you not get along with the Rockshox Reverb Stealth. We really don’t like remote fork lockouts on this style of bike (keep them for cross country racing, please) so we removed the CTD fork remote that came on the bike to further declutter its appearance. Speaking of lockouts, because of the orientation of the FOX Float X shock, getting access to the CTD lever is quite a stretch. Fortunately the Polygon pedals beautifully, so you’re not relying on the CTD lever to scoot it along at all.
Few details have been overlooked; the down tube is protected from rock strikes by thick frame stickers, and the chain is silenced by a heavy duty moulded rubber guard. You can fit a front derailleur should you wish, or a chain guide with the ISCG tabs, but not a water bottle – it’s a pack only affair.
Tyre clearance out back is pretty tight, not width-wise, but you’re restricted by height/depth of the tyre. A Schwalbe Hans Dampf in 2.25 squeezes in with plenty of room on either side, but there’s minimal space between the tread and the chain stay junction, so fitting anything much bigger than the stock rubber is not advisable. We didn’t test the Polygon in the wet, but we can imagine this could get a bit gloopy in the mud.
While a price tag of $5799 isn’t exactly pocket change, what you get for your money is pretty fantastic. With the exception of a adding a carbon bar in place of the Spank Oozy alloy number, you’d be hard pressed to upgrade the N9 in any meaningful way.
We like the fact that Polygon have cherry-picked the components, rather than sticking with a SRAM or Shimano/FOX theme. The end result is a great mix of Shimano, SRAM, FOX and e13. Shimano provide the ever-reliable XT brakes (still the best on the market, we feel), SRAM deliver with the superb XX1 drivetrain and RockShox Reverb Stealth post, and e13 supply the stiff (and loud!) TRS Race wheelset. FOX handle front and rear suspension, with a Float X rear shock and 160mm-travel 34 TALAS fork. Spank provide the 740mm-wide bar and 50mm stem, and it’s really nicely finished kit. The anüss pleasing Fizik Gobi saddle is a safe call too.
Specific praise should be given to Polygon’s decision to add a travel-adjustable fork; dropping the front end by a few centimetres on climbs does wonders for bikes like this, which can be a handful to keep on track up loose, steep fireroad grinds. As we mentioned before, we ditched the fork’s remote CTD lever – we think the travel adjustment is far more important on this kind of bike than remote lockouts.
Compared to many new all-mountain wheel offerings, the e13 TRS rims are a little bit narrower than we’re becoming accustomed too. But these wheels are certainly stiff, thanks to absolutely massive hub shells/flanges, and the rims come ready for tubeless use, just add valves and spooge. They’re also amongst the loudest wheels we’ve ever ridden, which is sure to divide riders into the ‘look at me, look at me’ crew and those who want to actually talk to their mates while riding!
The Collusus N9 is the funnest thing to come out of Indonesia since those Gudang Garam clove cigarettes that gave us head spins back in year 8 at high school. (Smoking is bad, kids!) But seriously, this bike is incredibly playful, especially given its generous chunk of travel. With its relatively short wheel base, it wants to hop, flick about and manual, hiding its 160mm of bounce until you need it. The same can be said of the way this bike pedals – it’s stable and efficient under pedalling efforts, not wallowing about like some 160mm bikes.
The bike’s immediate, first-pedal-stroke acceleration isn’t quite as good, which we put down to the frame’s rear end flex. It just seems to lose a bit of that initial snap when you first put down the power, when compared to a stiffer framed bike.
Carrying speed, however, is not an issue, as both fork and rear suspension do a fantastic job of getting the wheels moving out of the way of the bumps that want to slow you down. The suspension design is super active, delivering excellent traction under power. We’re certain the FOX Float X shock plays a big role too, as its arguably the most responsive and smoothest air shock on the market, handling fast, repeated hits beautifully.
Getting the fork pressure dialled was easy thanks to the handy setup guide on the FOX website, and from the word go we were 100% happy with the fork’s feel, the rear end took a little more twiddling. We ultimately ended up running a tad less sag than usual for this style of bike (just on 25%), which delivered the balance that we wanted. If we dropped the pressures towards the 30% sag mark, we found the bike hitting the bottom of its travel a bit easily and not keeping in step with the fork. It’s always worth taking a shock pump out for your first few rides we think, and the Polygon proved this once again. Once we had the pressures dialled, the bike’s balance was impossible to fault.
Descending is obviously the bike’s forte, and we loved how quiet and smooth the Polygon was. The fact that it’s such a playful, manoeuvrable machine makes it easy to manhandle around technical trails, putting the wheels exactly where you want them, and the grip is sensational (great tyres, supple suspension), letting you brake hard and late with the awesome Shimano stoppers. We wouldn’t say it’s a class leader in flat-out, super rough terrain – there are other longer and slacker 160mm bikes that will serve you better if you’re looking for downhill bike stability at speed – but for the kind of steep, techy descending that most riders will be doing, the N9 is brilliant. It’s a fun bike in corners too, making easy work of tighter trails that would bog a lot of other bikes in this category down.
The Polygon’s climbing prowess is fine on shorter inclines, where you can get out of the saddle and hit the climb nice and quickly. On long grinders we found ourselves wishing for a little bit more length – either a slightly longer stem or a longer top tube – as the upright seating position is hard on the lower back. As with every bike, it’s important to get a test ride if you can, and we wouldn’t be surprised if many riders go up a size over their usual, in the N9 in order to get the required top tube length.
In today’s market, and particularly in this rapidly-growning all-mountain segment, it takes a lot to standout. But the N9 really does; it looks amazing, is excellent value (yes, an expensive bike can still be good value), blends fun and confidence perfectly, and registers Polygon as a serious contender for the ‘most-improved’ award in the industry. Make sure you check the length of the bike before you buy, because some riders may want to size up, but otherwise you should have no reservations about handing over your hard-earned for this weapon and hitting those rowdy trails on a bike that quite clearly comes from the future.
Pyga is the brainchild of Patrick Morewood (the man behind Morewood Bikes), and Mark Hopkins, the co-founder of protection company Leatt. That’s an interesting combination of talented minds! To be honest, we hadn’t encountered this South African brand until recently, when we received an email asking if we’d like to try one out. We’ve always had a soft spot for Morewood Bikes, so when we discovered that Patrick Morewood was at the helm, we jumped at the chance to get one on review.
The pragmatically named ‘Oneforty650’ (the whole bike has a pragmatic bent actually), is aimed purely at the booming trail/all-mountain sector of riders, sporting a “do it all” 140mm of travel paired with 650b wheels. For now, the Oneforty sells as a frameset only, a feature that will turn away some potential buyers, however on the plus side, a naked frame allows a rider to completely customise their ride to their riding style and intended purpose. It’s definitely not a bike aimed at the novice rider, and that option to build from scratch will resonate with those more experienced.
As this bike only comes as a frameset we won’t harp on about the parts spec, but it’s worth a mention as the bike was set up in a way we felt perfectly matched the intention of the frame design – tough trail abuse. SRAM’s X01 1×11 setup handled the drivetrain, the wheels used were Pyga branded carbon rims (nice and fat to match the bike’s rowdy intentions), and the suspension was looked after by RockShox with a Pike (in a 160mm format) and a Monarch Plus – perfecto. The tyre combo of a Maxxis Minion up front and speedy Ikon out back is a favourite of ours, and mounted to the wide rims, this rubber has a seriously grippy footprint. Rounding out our build was the exquisite Truvativ Jerome Clementz carbon handlebar and Avid Elixir Trail 9 brakes.
While our bike had a 160mm fork, PYGA say that anything from 140-160mm is suitable, so if you’d like to sharpen things a smidgen, you know that’s possible without interfering with the bike’s balance.
Back in his Morewood days, Patrick Morewood used to build claim his bikes were ‘The bikes that downhill built’, and it would seem this ethos has carried across to Pyga. This frameset exudes toughness. The choice of material alone – robust alloy, not carbon – sends a message that this bike’s meant for riders who don’t want to be concerned about their equipment if they take a tumble or two. Pivotal areas such as the stays and head tube feature plenty of reinforcement with some seriously sturdy looking welds, and double-row bearings at high-load areas of the suspension linkage should ensure years of rattle-free action.
The suspension system is worth closer examination. More than one observer pointed out that it “looks like a Trek”, and that is certainly true (and not a bad thing!). The shock floats between the upper linkage and the chain stay – it’s not not mounted to the mainframe at all – which opens up more possibilities for tuning the shock rate throughout the stroke. There are no funky axle-path claims going on here; it’s a straight up single pivot design, with a link driving the shock. The relatively low location of the main pivot point is designed to ensure that the suspension remains active under pedalling forces, with very little feedback when pedalling over the rough too.
The practicality aspect of the bike is reinforced by the nearly entirely external cable routing. Whilst internal cable routing looks pretty on the showroom floor and has largely become de rigour on high end bikes, any home mechanic will know the pain of trying to route cabling through a frame, especially when the frame curves to any degree. As those who purchase this bike will have to BYO componentry, the external mounts will be a blessing for easy assembly and maintenance. The sole exception to the external routing is a port on the seat tube for a stealth routed dropper post, though you can run an externally cabled dropper too. In the context of all the other mechanic-friendly features, some might be surprised to find the bike uses a press-fit bottom bracket.
Geometry-wise the PYGA has the kind of numbers that are very reassuring; in a medium frame the top tube is 600mm (perfectly matched with a 50-70mm stem), and the head angle sits at 67-degrees, all reinforcing the idea that this bike lives to throw the rider confidently through tougher trails.
The Pyga is a real rider’s bike; aggressive, responsive, stiff and tough. There are lighter, more polished looking machines out there, but out on the trail (particularly if it points downhill) this bike will leave you grinning. With excellent frame stiffness throughout, aided by the Syntace X12 axle out back, the Pyga is the kind of bike that loves to sprint, be thrown around and slapped into turns. There’s plenty of room through the top tube and cockpit so that you never feel trapped or crammed in, giving you space to let the bike work and move beneath you. Compared to the swoopier designs of many carbon frames, the Pyga is a little lacking in stand-over clearance, but this is only likely to be a consideration for short(er) riders and it didn’t impinge our riding.
You can lean on the Pike like an old friend through the roughest situations and the rear end will be there tracking through with equal aplomb – that sensation of connectedness between front and rear wheels is something often missing from lighter bikes. That feeling of trustworthiness is definitely reinforced by the Maxxis Minion rubber up front, which bites like a pitbulll, especially when mounted to wide rims like those on the Pyga.
It’s a supple ride too, but without becoming isolating or wallowy like some bikes in this category can be. The buttery action of the Monarch Plus rear shock is testament once again to have far RockShox rear shocks have come; it has the kind of smoothness we’d have previously only associated with a FOX shock. Patrick Morewood has done a fantastic job of tuning the shock rate for bigger impacts (the man does love to ride fast – he’s a former downhill National Champ) and the Pyga has a real sense of bottomless suspension travel out back. Even though our bike was paired with a 160mm fork, the 140mm-travel rear end never felt out-gunned or unbalanced.
With its alloy construction and robust parts kit, the Oneforty is no lightweight, but it climbs quite well and handles flatter singletrack riding easily all the same. The seat angle is step enough to keep you nicely centred over the bottom bracket even with the seat at full height, so you never feel like you’re pushing a recumbent up hill. We found ourselves spending most of our ascending time with the Monarch switched into its blue compression lever in its middle setting – because the shock lever is easy to reach on the fly, we did toggle between compression settings quite a lot to get the most out of the bike.
If your riding predominantly involves a lot of tight, twisty trails, setting the Pyga up with a 140-150mm fork would probably be ideal for snappy handling, but even with a 160mm fork fitted we didn’t have any worries on slower, flatter terrain. Because the stays are a short 431mm, whipping the back end of the bike around those tighter turns, or popping the front end up pinchy, technical climbs was easily done.
Admittedly the market for high-end aluminium bikes isn’t what it once was as carbon becomes increasingly prevalent, but the Pyga Oneforty 650 is targeted at a specific type of rider, not the mass market. With its robust build, perfect all-mountain geometry and suspension that just gets better the harder you ride, it’s a bike for those who prioritise confidence and downhill performance over low weight and glitz. Its practical construction will keep you out of the workshop too, and on the trails more, which is always a plus. While the frame-only availability will be an obstacle for some, if you’ve got a dream all-mountain build in mind, the Pyga Oneforty is the ideal workhorse to make it happen.
The Scott Genius is one of the few bikes that for many years has successfully blurred the lines of the genres that define bike styles. Its versatility bends the rules, and manages to do what a true all mountain bike should – open up possibilities and options to the rider, begging for adventure. And it’s all thanks to one particular clever and well thought out element, the Twinloc. What is Twinloc and how can one feature it have such a positive impact on one bike?
The Genius is available in both wheel sizes, we test the 27.5″ version.
This is one seriously subtle and understated carbon bike, with the black on black finish, only very minimal glossy stickers separate the graphics from the matte black frame paint. From a distance the lack of graphics is both refreshing and stealthy. And in an age of brightly branded bikes, we welcome this murdered out stealth black ride.
A carbon mainframe is joined to an aluminium rear end, the cables are a mixture of internal and externally routed and included is a super neat rubber chain stay guard finishes off the impeccable frame.
At the heart of the Scott Genius (and integral to the shorter travel Scott Spark and longer Scott Genius LT) is a nifty handlebar mounted lever that controls the rear shock and fork, the Twinloc. It may just only be one of many features of this bike, but it impacts on multiple elements of the bike’s ride character via by changing both the suspension feel and geometry. Hitting the Twin-Loc lever on the bars engages Traction mode: the rear travel is reduced from 150mm to 100mm, stiffening the suspension rate and therefore the amount of suspension sag, to aid climbing. Push the lever to its second stop and the rear suspension is locked out entirely, along with the fork, making for a rock solid pedalling machine.
Yes, the Twinloc adds an extra two cables into the mix creating a very busy cockpit. Scott are also pretty experienced with this stuff, and they manage to keep any clutter to a minimum with clean routing, but with a little bit of time and care in the workshop you could trim the cables down in length, plus shortening the gear cables and brake lines a touch will lessen the birds nest of cables in front of the bars.
A bike with 150mm of travel is fantastic if the trails are on the rougher and steeper side of things, but it’s still a fair bit of bounce to be lugging up the climbs or through flatter trails. With the Twinloc it felt like we were riding two bikes in one. Heard that before? Well, try one out and you’ll see.
Not only does the Twinloc lessen the suspension travel quantity, it also sharpens the bikes important angles in favour of climbing when in Traction Mode. So the Genius will never feel like too much bike, it cleans up in the versatility stakes. You could ride the Genius hard on the rough trails and still enter the odd 24 hour or marathon race without any penalty from a non-efficient or heavy bike to battle with.
Shimano XT score the majority of the business with the Genius 710, and we’re totally fine with that. Although our test bike had a slight issue with the brake calliper leaking a tiny amount of mineral oil onto the pads, making for a noisy action for a few stops before coming good again, most definitely a warranty issue that can be sorted quickly by your local bike shop. A shame, as XT brakes are usually a benchmark for reliability and consistency.
A double chainring setup gives the Genius a real ‘all mountain’ conquering range of gears. Some riders may be rushing out to single-ring their bikes but if you ride all day in steep terrain a gear range as wide as this is a real blessing! It’s silent in its operation, and we didn’t experience any dropped chains at all. The trendy conversion to a single ring would clean up the bars with one less cable and shifter, but we appreciate the useable range too much to consider that, long live the low gear range!
Syncros components have been around for yonks, but a couple years ago they were snapped up by Scott and are now their in-house component brand. The benefits of the bigger brands having in-house components is boundless, with the big players able to match colour, spec and intended use of each component to the bikes models easier and cheaper. In this case with Syncros already having such a great reputation for quality prior to the merger with Scott, the perceived quality matches our positive impressions after testing. Even the saddle was a fave for all testers. A short stem and wide bars were faves too.
The wheels use Syncros hubs and rims with bladed spokes. With such a capable all mountain bike, we’d prefer the rims to be wider as some of the new generation of wide rims are really impressing us with the way they boost the tyre’s traction and low pressure abilities. They are tubeless ready though, and come with tubeless valves for quick and easy conversion.
Schwalbe handle the rubber bits with the Nobby Nic in a tacky triple compound and tubeless ready casing. We’d swap them out for a tyre more suited to our hard packed trails, perhaps a Hans Dampf on the front at least, but if your soils are softer these tyres are lightning fast and light for their size. The 2015 Genius 710 comes with the new generation Nobby Nic on the front, which we’ve been much happier with in a variety of conditions in comparison the the ones we find here.
A RockShox Reverb adjustable seatpost with internal Stealth routing is always a welcome sight on any bike, aside from matching the paintwork like they were born together, its action is superb. Our had some leaking issues, with the hose adjoining the bottom of the post not quite tight enough, most probably our fault as we had to instal and bleed the post out of the box. Moments like these we miss external posts, or simply cable actuated ones.
FOX suspension front and back served up smooth and supple suspension as always, with the fork in particular being one of the smoother and progressive forks from the batch of 2014 forks from FOX.
Spinning to the trails on the tarmac with the Twinloc engaged, we roll along as if we’re riding a cross country hardtail with the fork and shock locked firm. Up and into the trails we engaged the traction mode which dropped the rear travel to a taut 100mm and also firmed up the compression setting in the fork. In traction mode we were able to stand up and crank ourselves up and over the pinch climbs without losing too much energy into the suspension, but still it was able to react to impacts helping maintain traction to the rear wheel, and avoid pinging our front wheel around. We like this!
When the trails turn down, we release the Twinloc into open mode and let her rip, with the 150mm or FOX suspension taking more than just the sting out of the trails. Still with the Twinloc in full travel mode, the suspension feels firm under you, the trade off is when speeds get really high the rear end feels choppier and harsher than some of the other 150mm bikes that don’t climb as well as the Genius.
Geometry wise, the Genius uses a nice and roomy front end coupled with a short stem, giving the rider quick handling but plenty of room to move around when negotiating turns and wild terrain.
The Genius is a little different to the others in its category, it may have a generous 150mm of travel front and back but the whole bike rides so light and efficiently that we forget we were packing some serious firepower beneath us for when we needed it most. Riding more like a light trail bike with some backup saved up for the gnarlier descents, the Genius won’t be one for the rougher enduro race nuts out there, but will suit the rider seeking a classic trail bike with some added travel to get up and down any mountain you need to.
It’s a well named bike, that’s for sure. The clever suspension adjustment and a nice balance between a lightweight all day riding bike and big hitting all mountain bike is achieved in true style and class. The subtle graphics and stealth image hides it’s racey attitude. On either side of the Genius sit the leaner Spark and burlier Genius LT, we don’t doubt that one of these three bikes would please the most demanding rider.
While Sydney has been doing its finest Scottish Highlands impression this past month, with more rain than The Weather Girls, we couldn’t ignore the urge to get to know our Norco Range 7.2 a little better. As you can see, we’ve even found time to make a couple of tweaks to this glorious machine. Read on for the first instalment of our long term test.
As we commented in our First Bite initial impressions piece, it’s uncommon to find a bike this battle-ready off the shelf. Normally we find at least a couple of items to fiddle with before hitting the trails (for example, stem length, tyres or chain ring size), but this was not the case with the Range. Converting the wheels for tubeless is the only must-do before rolling out the door. The Alex rims do say they’re tubeless ready, but this is pretty misleading, as all the label really means is that they can be run tubeless if you fit an appropriate kit. While the bike regrettably isn’t supplied with a tubeless kit, we were able to successfully seal it all up with Stan’s No Tubes tape/valves/sealant. The Maxxis High Roller II tyres are tubeless ready, so it all snapped into place and held air perfectly.
Getting the suspension dialled was step number two, which is made easy thanks to a pressure guide on the Pike RC fork and sag indicators on the Monarch Plus shock.
We’ve been running 65psi in the fork, which is right on the recommended pressure. We’ve had great experience in the past with the Pike’s Bottomless Token system, which alters the progressiveness of the fork, so we’ll be trying out lower pressures and adding a Token or two to see how this changes the ride. In the meantime, we’ve also just received the new FOX 36 to test, so we’ve duly fitted it up and we’ll be taking it out for it its maiden voyage next week. The 36 is 170g heavier than the Pike, but it looks sweeter than an Iced Vovo and we’re dying to ride it. You can read all about our first impressions here.
At present we’re running around 167psi in the Monarch Plus rear shock, for just over 25% sag. We’ll experiment with slightly lower pressures too, as we’re yet to hit full travel with the current settings. We had initially thought that the Monarch could be a weak point in the bike’s performance, but that idea soon went out the window. The 2015 Monarch Plus is far and away the smoothest, most responsive rear air shock we’ve experienced from Rockshox – finally they have an trail/all-mountain shock that can match the performance on the Pike. We just hope it stays this good in the long-term.
Unfortunately our first outing resulted in not one, but two mechanicals, the blame for which lies squarely at our feet. First, we collected a stick that had the audacity to be tougher than it looked, and we snapped out a spoke in the rear wheel. On the same outing, we also damaged the rear brake line. In our build process, we didn’t leave enough slack in the rear brake line to account for large degree of rotation at the bike’s dropout pivot. As such, on a large impact, the line has been pulled too tight and developed a small rupture right at the point where the line enters the caliper banjo fitting. Arguably, the line shouldn’t have suffered this damage, but it was yet another reminder for us to always check a bike’s brake/cable lines through the full range of suspension movement. Lucky for us, we’ve just recently received a set of SRAM Guide RSC brakes to review, so we’ve fitted them for the interim until we get a chance to put a new line on the original brake. Because the Range uses an internally routed rear brake line, fitting a new brake was a little more involved, but at least the ports for routing the line are of a decent size so threading the line isn’t as hard as some.
While the original rear wheel is out of action, we’ve fitted the bike with a set of beautiful carbon SRAM Roam 60 wheels which we have previously reviewed. They’re far lighter than the original wheels (by some 400g!) and they’re stiff as a frozen fish finger. With the weight saved on the wheels, and the weight added with the FOX fork, the Range now weighs in at 13.4kg including a set of Time ATAC MX4 pedals.
We’ll report back next month with a bit more information about how the Range rides, once we’ve had a chance to get it onto a wider variety of trails.
The FOX 36 was the original high-performance, long-travel single crown fork. When FOX first brought this beast to market in 2005 its 36mm-legged chassis seemed absurdly chunky, like some kind of cartoon drawing of a fork. But the 36 weighed far less than its looks would indicate, and it soon became the gold standard for hardcore all-mountain riding.
Since then, this segment of mountain biking has blown up like a gouty toe, and performance of long-travel single crown forks has increased at a ridiculous rate; lighter, stiffer, more control on both the climbs and descents. Rockshox launched a huge salvo in the war for all-mountain dominance in 2013 with the Pike (which we’ve reviewed here), right at the same time as FOX were copping a bit of a battering as some riders found their forks under-damped and occasionally suffering from stiction issues.
But FOX have rallied the troops and resurrected that original no-holds-barred ethos of the 36 for 2015. While we haven’t got our new test fork onto the trails yet, at a glance, we’d have to say the results of their efforts are pretty damn impressive.
The new 36 really is new, there’s an awful lot to talk about with this fork, so we’ll save the full discussion of all the features for our final verdict. But what stands out to us is how far FOX have gone in their efforts to combat friction with the 36 – each and every 36 that rolls off the production line is fitted to a dyno that checks the fork for bushing friction. The fork also runs the new FOX Gold Oil lubricating fluid, which is claimed to reduce friction by 33%, and the damper seal head is now a very expensive, very slippery SKF number. The polishing process for the legs has been changed too.
The weight of this fork is another highlight, FOX have scraped every excess gram out of the lowers and our test fork weighs in at 2044g. Part of the weight saving comes from a new air spring assembly; rather than running a coil for the negative spring, the 36 uses a negative air spring which automatically equalises with the positive chamber. This arrangement should not only be lighter, but should deliver the best possible ride quality, no matter what the rider weight (unlike the coil spring, which was optimised for a 75kg rider).
The 36 is available in a pretty impressive range of configurations, with options for 26, 27.5 and 29″ wheels, travel adjustable TALAS formats, and in 160mm or 170mm versions. Worth noting too, is that travel can be internally adjusted with the Float versions of the fork, right down to 11omm. Interestingly, the 36 can be run with either a 15mm or 20mm axle – that’s a unique option we didn’t expect. Next up, we’ll be fitting this fork to our new Norco Range Carbon 7.2 long-term test bike. It’ll be replacing a Rockshox Pike, so making a head to head comparison of the performance should be easy.
Holy smokes that’s a good looking bike! The all-new 27.5″-wheeled, 140mm Trigger is drop dead gorgeous in the flesh. It’s hard to get past the finish and focus on some of the bike’s more unique aspects, like the chunky new Lefty Supermax fork and the suspension-disguised-as-a-rocket-pack DYAD RT2 pull-shock.
We reviewed the 2014 Trigger 29 last year and we came away impressed with the precise steering, traction and the bike’s playfulness despite the larger wheel size. This year the trigger is available in both 27.5 and 29er versions, and as much as we liked the Trigger 29er, we think the snappier, smaller wheel size will be just the ticker and we’re frothing to determine the capabilities of this bike!
One complaint we did have about the Trigger 29 1 was that the Lefty felt harsh through fast and repetitive impacts, so we’re looking forward to see how this year’s iteration of the Supermax feels by comparison; it comes equipped with “trail” tune, a damper that is somewhere between cross-country efficiency and all-mountain suppleness.
Continuing the theme of unique suspension, the Trigger retains the DYAD pull-shock. This multi chambered shock can be remotely switched between an 85mm-travel Elevate mode for climbing and the aptly named 140mm Flowmode for descents.
Another element worth a mention is the combination of Mavic tyres and wheels. On first examination, the compound of the tyres feels rather firm. As out first ride is going to be on some rooty, slippery singletrail, we’ll soon know if we have to switch these out for something with a softer compound. We’re looking forward to the ride, but we’ll be sad to get this glossy, classy finish all covered in mud!
After countless trail hours, car miles, domestic flights and mountain bike events, it has come time to begrudgingly hand back our beloved Lapierre Zesty AM long term test bike.
We’ve made no mystery of the fact that we love Lapierre bikes here at Flow, they tear through singletrack like a pro and their e:i Shock gizmo takes efficiency to an unprecedented level. This one in particular – the Zesty AM729- with its top-tier spec and fancy electronics, attracted its fair share of attention on the trails. And in the end of our time aboard the Zesty we review our relationship as having been bitter-sweet, equal parts joy and frustration.
[divider]A bit of background on the e:i Shock[/divider]
All the big bike brands are frantically duking it against each other out for rear suspension supremacy by using tricky rear axle paths, proprietary shock valving, remote lockouts or, in Lapierre’s case, an automatically-adjusting and electronically-controlled rear suspension system. It’s a confusing time for the consumer, and even for us. They all have their strengths and weaknesses, and the weaknesses in particular keep shrinking each year as the technologies develop. What the heck is going to be next? The future of mountain bike suspension is an unknown to us, where can it all go from here, will it plateau and calm down? Do we really need all this?
Lapierre’s unique electronic intelligent suspension system is not an easy concept to explain – it all makes a lot more sense when you actually ride a bike equipped with this system. Fortunately here at Flow we’ve had plenty of trail time on a wide range of e:i equipped bikes, take a look at our first review of the 2013 Zesty 314. Lapierre use the e:i on three models of suspension bikes, the XR, Zesty and Spicy.
Lapierre have clearly realised that explaining the e:i system in mere words is a bit of a task, and so they’ve just released this great vid that does a really good job of explaining what it’s all about and how it works.
In the end, we most certainly appreciate what the e:i Shock does, whole heartedly. The best thing about it? You’re always in the best suspension setting for whatever riding you are doing. You don’t have to reach for a lever on a shock, or a switch on the handlebar, it’s all 100% automatic. You are always in the optimum shock setting, and you can’t fool it, trick it or be caught out.
Our test bike here is a 2014 model, but for 2015, Lapierre have greatly simplified the operation of the e:i system, ridding it of the unnecessary display unit and bar-mounted mode adjuster. We recently spent time on the new e:i system, and met the engineers behind the incredibly clever and effective system, whilst previewing the 2015 Lapierre range. We’re also currently testing the new 2015 Zesty TR 829, so come back soon!
[divider]Our Long Term Test[/divider]
The 2014 Zesty AM 927 is a gorgeous bike, immaculately finished, and specced with the finest parts possible for almost $10k. From the forests of Cairns, to the big mountains of Mount Buller, to the flowing trails of Orange and all over the trails of Sydney, the Zesty was that perfect ‘one bike’ that was up for anything. Exploring unknown trails is always a tricky one; what bike to take? Our Zesty always seemed to be the right choice, and we reached for it all the time. We raced it at Bike Buller, the multi-stage event in the big Victorian Alps, with its hour-long climbs and insanely fast descents, tight switchback corners and wide open fire roads. The Zesty was never too much, or not enough bike. We raced it at Enduro events, and wouldn’t hesitate to roll around a multi-lap endurance race either.
Sure, its high end parts make this bike very appealing, keeping the weight low and therefore requiring less effort to pedal around the trails, but the geometry and handing characteristic really lend itself to taking on a wide variety of trails too. 150mm of travel is a fair bit of bounce, but the electronic motors continually zapped away, making sure that you were always in the right setting for climbing, springing or descending. You never get that soggy, energy sapping feeling as your pedal power is absorbed into the the bike as the rear shock compresses, it is firm when you want it, but stop pedalling or hit a bump and it instantly becomes plush and active.
One thing we kept on wishing for, was a FOX shock in place of the RockShox Monarch. It’s no secret that a FOX rear shock in most cases feels smoother, more sensitive and reacts faster than a RockShox. This 2014 model Monarch is better than last year’s one, but still at high speeds and when the trails became choppy, those fast and repetitive impacts seem to choke up the shock. For 2015 however, the new Monarch’s have improved out of sight again, new model bikes we’ve ridden with 2015 Monarch shocks are far smoother and sensitive.
We chatted to Lapierre’s suspension engineer about the working relationship with RockShox, and why FOX was never used with the e:i Shock. It turns out that FOX simply weren’t that interested in working with the e:i Shock folks, and the current Shimano/FOX electronic systems were simply not fast enough to work with the e:i system. RockShox shocks may not be the smoothest, but their damping internals are able to be changed at 0.01 seconds, that’s the key to the operation.
But, for all our praises of this bike comes some disappointing negatives. At the risk of sounding a bit brutal we were not 100% stoked on the 2014 e:i Shock’s hardware durability or visual appearance. Due to a few niggling electronic component issue – all of which were swiftly rectified under warranty – our Zesty has spent a portion of its life in varying states of operation. At times these niggles dominated our thoughts when riding, and left us wondering if the bike would be better without the electronics.
The issues we had lay in the connectivity of the electronic points, both at the head unit and at the main internal junction, suffering from the elements most likely. Inside the frame, above the bottom bracket is a little junction of wires, soldered together and waterproofed with heat shrink. Ours had issues, and the junction wires were replaced by our local Lapierre dealer. We also had problems with the display unit going blank intermittently, but Lapierre have just released an updated head unit has a more positive connection between the computer display and the housing. We know this technology is young, and these kind of early generation issues are inevitable, but it is frustrating nonetheless.
On a more positive note, the upcoming 2015 version of this bike with its refined and simpler e:i Shock ‘Auto’ system will blow the 2014 model out of the water. We’ve ridden the 2015 system extensively, and look forward to more users having a better experience with e:i on the new system. Improvements to the 2015 system include the connections between the wires inside the frame. Gone are the soldered and heat shrink-wrapped junctions of wires, in place are new durable and weatherproof plugs, like you would find inside the frame of a Shimano Di2 bike. The display head unit is gone entirely too, as is the remote buttons near the shifter. This is all good news as far as we’re concerned – the system is much simpler visually and in its user interface.
We couldn’t help ourselves, a RockShox Pike had to happen. The 150mm travel 32mm FOX TALAS fork that came stock on the bike didn’t match the whole bike’s ready-for-action attitude. We opted for a 160mm Pike, which no only beefed up the front end with bigger diameter 35mm legs (in place of the FOX 32mm legs) but also lifted and slackened the front end. With a 160mm fork, the Zesty was beginning to look more like the Lapierre Spicy (which shares the exact same frame) which comes stock with a 160mm fork and a few more burly parts. Maybe we wanted really just wanted a Spicy all along?
The Schwalbe Nobby Nic tyres, like the skinny FOX fork are nice and light, but were holding back the Zesty’s true capabilities of going really, really fast. We’ve also not really been big fans of the Nobby Nic unless the soils are really soft; we find they ping and slide around on hard packed surfaces, which is quite scary at times.
A pair of gummy Maxxis 2.35 TLR 3C (tubeless ready, triple compound) were a good swap; the Minion front and High Roller II added weight and a bit of drag, but the traction trade-off was well and truly worth it. No flats, burping or cuts occurred, but the eye-poppingly good braking control from the High Roller on the rear was short lived as the tall and aggressive centre knobs shredded fairly quickly.
Everyone has a favourite seat, and the Bontrager Evoke is one of ours. In favour of the the Fizik Tundra, the Bontrager would save our buns on the longer rides.
We would typically muck around with the cockpit of a long term test bike, but in this case it remained unchanged. The length of the stem, ride and width of the bars was perfect. Even the grips stayed on the whole time.
Aside from the fork, the biggest change made to the Zesty was the ENVE M60 wheels. These lustrous hoops don’t need much of an introduction to road or mountain bike riders, they are the cream of the crop of carbon wheels. There is no better place on your bike to throw money at, the performance boost is huge. An excellent suspension fork is better than just a good one, but the differences with a top-notch set of wheels is night and day over a stock set.
What the ENVE wheels did to the bike was three-fold. Weight dropped significantly, the tyres were given a wider profile, and the bike’s direct and fast handling was lifted to the next level. The M60 rim is a fair bit wider than the stock Easton Havens, and in our opinion the wider the better. The tyres can be run at lower pressure to add major amounts of traction without experiencing a squirming or spongy ride. The contact patch of the tread was increased too as the casing of the tyre is set wider. But the best bit (not just the looks) is how they ride. The ENVE wheels know where you’re going, they feel stiff and strong without feeling harsh, and really encourage harder riding. Our ability to hold a rough line was noticeably more confident, and the rolling speed was wild, so damn fast.
Zestys love speed, cornering and making light work out of the trickiest trails. They are a true all-mountain bike. They have a knack for hauling around a flat corner, and ripping through the tight and twisty sections. A short rear end is to thank for its nimble handling in tight terrain, and we love the way the Zesty pulls a manual or flicks around a switchback. Up front, a roomy top-tube gives the bike a nice dose of length. Pair that to a short stem, and you have a nice balance of room for stability, but also fast and responsive handling. Pretty much ideal for a lightweight 150mm bike.
The overall low weight was instantly evident on the first ride, not just getting up climbs with less effort, we found ourselves able to pop over sections of the trail, searching for smoother and faster lines like we had loads of energy. Lifting the bike and placing it down where you want it is super easy. And there is no doubt about it, the e:i Shock component (when it’s working) is superb. If you can put up with the noisy motor zapping away, you will quickly forget about the fact you’re carrying a battery, accelerometers, computers and cadence sensors on board and you’ll just leave the computer in auto mode, and just ride. It is perfect efficiency, and it’s completely automatic and intuitive and instant.
In comparison to a regular bike test, a long term test lets us delve deeper into how a bike performs over time, allowing elements like durability and different setup results factor in to the test. In this case, we did have durability issues with the electronics, but that was it. We made a couple spec changes, but aside from the tyres, nothing actually needed replacing.
We often hear people saying that they think mountain bikes ‘don’t need’ electronic suspension. That’s true. But that doesn’t mean it’s not a positive development, and in reality it’s simply an evolution of what are already very advanced machines. Take a look at a high-end modern bike; carbon framed, carbon wheeled, hydraulically damped, amazing strength to weight ratios – these bikes are not simple any more. We’ve accepted electronics into just about every other aspect of out lives, from our timepieces to our toothbrushes to our cars, why not our bikes too?
If it wasn’t for the hardware issues we had with the electronics, we would have been 100% happy with this bike. We know there are countless Lapierre owners out there who have never had any troubles, so maybe we just had bad luck. We really enjoyed this bike, and we think that Lapierre is onto a great thing with e:i. Now we’re looking forward to the 2015 range resolving the niggling issues we had and reinstating the public’s belief in what we think is one of the leading suspension designs ever made.
One of life’s most frustrating occurrences is gelato inconsistency; sometimes you get a generous soul who heaps it into the cup like a mad person, other times you leave holding an ice cream that befits a child on a diet. Lately, our relationship with BH bikes has been a little like our relationship with our favourite gelaterria.
In most instances, the experience has been fulfilling and damn tasty (take for instance our time on board the BH Lynx 4.8 29 – superb!). But we’ve also had experiences that left us wanting just a little more, such as our test of the Lynx 6 Alloy 27.5; a fine bike, but just not as satisfying as we’d hoped.
But now the overly-generous staff member is back on shift, and the BH Lynx 6 27.5 Carbon has left us absolutely stuffed to the gills with tasty trail memories.
[divider]Build[/divider] Don’t be fooled into assuming that the 627 Carbon is just a magic plastic version of the Lynx 6 Alloy we reviewed a month or so ago. The two bikes are chalk and cheese. Where the Lynx 6 Alloy felt a little rough around the edges, the 6 27.5 Carbon is sculpted beauty of a thing, its full carbon frame all curved lines, like someone has stuck 650B wheels onto a dolphin. (Now there’s an interesting concept…). The upper link and pivot hardware are just about the only alloy in the frame, with the bottom bracket shell and headset cups all carbon.
But the differences run far deeper than its sleek carbon skin. Take a closer look at the rear end and you’ll notice the frame/suspension configuration is different too. Whereas the Lynx 6 alloy had a pierced seat tube with the shock located within the frame, the 6 27.5 Carbon is more conventional, with the FOX CTD Factory Series shock positioned in front of the seat tube. Unsurprisingly, the suspension kinematics are quite different on the trail too, but we’ll get into that later.
Dave Weagle is kind of the secret evil genius of the mountain bike industry. He’s got his hands on the levers of many machines, and the Split Pivot suspension system the BH employs is one of his creations. The secret of the design is a concentric pivot around the rear axle which ensures the suspension is uninhibited by braking forces. The rear shock is ‘sandwiched’ between an upper link and the chain stays, so it’s actuated from both ends, and this floating arrangement means suspension forces are not transferred into the main frame. Rear travel is a buttery 150mm, matched with 150mm up front.
If you don’t own a full set of Torx keys, hopefully you got a Bunnings gift card for Christmas, as the BH will require a trip to the hardware store – all the suspension pivots use a variety of Torx fittings, rather than Allen keys. While this is a pain in the proverbial, Torx heads are actually a better solution as they’re harder to round out under high torque loads. While our test riding often got loose, the pivots all stayed tight.
With a remote lockout for the fork and shock, the Lynx 6 27.5 has more cable than Foxtel, but thankfully it’s all neatly managed, with rattle-free internal routing (hooray!) for the derailluers and KS dropper post. The rear brake line is external (double hooray! Overwhelming joy!), as is the rear shock remote cable. The rear shock’s lockout cable does slide backwards and forwards through the cable guides the suspension compresses, which does make us worry about potentially nasty cable rub in wet conditions.
In just about every regard, the BH keeps ticking boxes like a food safety inspector. There’s a press-fit bottom bracket, ISCG mounts, a neat low-stack head tube, and the super neat double-bolt seat post clamp even has a rubber sheath to keep grit out of the frame. You can fit a full-sized water bottle in there, but there’s a catch! Depending on your bottle cage, you may need to file out the cage’s bolt holes in order to sit it further forward; we found the shock’s rebound adjuster just caught on the end of our bottle, turning the rebound dial one click faster with every suspension compression! Thirty seconds with a round file to modify the bottle cage fixed it.
[divider]Spec[/divider] BH have listened to rider and media feedback and the 6 27.5 is specced with cockpit and fork that we felt were sorely missing from the Lynx 6 alloy. A 740mm bar and 50mm stem make for an aggressive front end, and the FOX 34 Float fork sweeps your poor line choices under the rug. We’re hoping that all new season FOX forks work as well as this one, because this fork has more sensitivity than an exposed nerve ending – it’s so smooth at the top of the stroke it felt like we had a slow leak in the front tyre. The Kashima coated shock is equally adept, as always.
The Stan’s Arch EX wheelset is an interesting choice, being very light, and the rims aren’t as wide as we’d normally see on a bike of this travel. Still, our past experiences with these wheels is that they punch well above their weight and they’re wisely wrapped in a pair of Hans Dampfs, which stick like a smashed moth to a windscreen.
Braking, shifting and fishing reel duties are all handled by Shimano, with an XT/XTR combo. A cheaper SLX cassette is also slipped into the mix, but cassettes wear out and you can replace it with a lighter XT cassette in year’s time. As a European brand, the BH is understandably equipped with a double ring drivetrain – the hills are just a lot bigger over there. Even though we’re big fans of a single ring setup, there were times we thankfully slipped into the granny ring on long climbs.
Completing the menagerie of cables out front is a KS Lev dropper post, with its neat remote lever smoothly actuating 125mm of adjustment. Along with two shifters, two brakes and remote lock outs for the fork and shock, there are six cables off the bars, but BH have done an admirable job of taming the serpents’ nest and with the addition of just one zip tie we were able to prevent any cable rub. All the cables use a full-length housing too, which should reduce the need for regular maintenance to keep the lockouts, post and shifting working smoothly. With so many levers for your thumbs to hit, we’ll admit that it took us a good ride or two to stop pushing the wrong button occasionally, stiffening the suspension when we really wanted the big ring!
[divider]Ride[/divider] When we rode the BH Lynx 6 Alloy a couple of weeks ago, we noted the bike’s excellent geometry and the fact that the suspension had the same super lively feel to it as its 29er brother, the Lynx 4.8 29. The genes are strong, and the 6 27.5 has that same ultra-supple, responsive and lively ride quality, but it’s also a far more capable bike when you start pushing harder.
With the 34mm fork leading the charge, the 6 27.5 is a reckless beast. Thanks to the 50mm stem, your weight is naturally pushed back over the rear axle, encouraging you to keep the front end up and plough over all comers. The Lynx has a very short rear end too, which makes it very easy to pick the bike up, jump or pump through the trails – it’s just really playful.
While we found the Lynx 6 Alloy blew through its travel a little easily, the 6 27.5 offers a more progressive suspension feel. When you really slam it, you’ll find plenty of support to the ride, so it’s still responsive when other bikes would be feeling bogged down by the rough riding. Basically, go ahead and treat the bike like it insulted your sister, it’ll take it.
The 50mm stem on the 6 27.5 definitely adds to the ‘get rad’ factor of the bike and makes it really easy to manoeuvre, but it won’t suit everyone. When climbing up ledges or steep pinches, the short stem does leave the bars right in your lap, so we tried going a little longer. With a 70mm stem fitted, we didn’t feel like the bike gave up much of its playfulness, but there was more front end grip in flat turns and the climbing position was better. It’s a horses for courses thing, and like during your teen years, a bit of experimentation is good.
While we’ve ridden lighter all-mountain bikes (and many much heavier too) the 627 is a steady, grippy climber, preferring a conversational pace. We don’t like to rely on lockouts too much, and we often find them too firm and only suitable for the smoothest surfaces, but we actually found the light tune of the Trail and Climb modes on the 6 27.5 to be really usable. In Trail mode the suspension only stiffens marginally, and even when you push the lever further to engage Climb mode, the suspension becomes just firm enough to resist bobbing under heavy pedalling, but not so firm that you’ll be put through the wringer if you leave it engaged for a descent.
This is the all-mountain bike we knew BH had the potential to make, a glamorous (cable nest aside), wicked all-rounder. Those riders with Gravity Enduro aspirations will likely fit a single ring, and for our purposes that would be the only modification we’d likely make in the longer term. But we’re sure that most riders will be completely blown away with the bike as it stands.
Only a couple of weeks ago, we got our first in-the-flesh look at the new Norco line up. You can read the detail here, but let’s just say that the Norco of today does not bear much of a resemblance to the Norco of six or seven years ago. It’s like watching a movie and it suddenly dawning that the hottie you’re looking at used to be the 12 year-old kid in Full House. Startling, slightly creepy, but a welcome surprise.
Merely sitting on the bike and admiring its finish through the camera lens was enough to make us say “yes, we want.”
One of the stars of the 2015 line up is the Range Carbon 7.2. We didn’t see a lot of these bikes in Australia last year, which was a real bummer. But with the growth of the Gravity Enduro scene, the local distro is bringing in more Range models and in greater numbers for 2015. Most excellent. In truth, we didn’t get a chance to even take the Range 7.2 for a spin during the product launch at Old Hidden Vale. But we didn’t need to. Merely sitting on the bike and admiring its finish through the camera lens was enough to make us say “yes, we want.” The bike just felt perfect when we slung a leg over it, and the weight, spec and finish were brilliant.
Fast forward two weeks of persistent nagging and a big brown box full of carbon, rubber and f#ck-yeah turned up at Flow HQ. The Range 7.2 is a real stunner of a bike. Carbon throughout (chain stays aside), a build kit that challenges you to find something to upgrade, excellent suspension, trail-friendly weight and great angles.
While 160mm is generally a little more travel than we’d opt for on our local trails, there are enough rocky, wild descents for us to give the Norco the kind of walloping that it yearns for. And it’ll be an interesting exercise to see how this long-travel machine handles the flatter trails too; we’d normally take a bike like this to the roughest trails in order to assess its abilities, so it’ll be good to have the time on our side to try the whole gamut of trail types and really get its measure as an all-rounder.
First up on the cards for us is to set the bike up tubeless (the Maxxis High Roller IIs are good to go for tubeless use) and maybe lop the bars down a smidgen – at 800mm, they’re maybe 20 or 30mm wider than we’re accustomed to.
One of Canada’s finest exports (the other is undoubtedly maple syrup), Devinci bikes are riding a wave of love at the moment, driven by the exploits of World Cup downhiller Stevie Smith. The new Spartan is Devinci’s 160mm-travel, 27.5″-wheeled, Enduro-ready machine and its origins flow directly from the World Champs race bike that Steve Smith rode in Pietermaritzburg last year.
The Spartan is built with a carbon seat stay assembly, but alloy everywhere else, thought a full carbon version of this bike will be coming to Oz in the very near future (see the vid below for more). Dave Weagle’s Split Pivot suspension design is well-proven now, delivering 160mm of travel via a Rockshox Monarch Plus shock.
Geometry is adjustable with a simple shock mount/chip system. In the slackest setting, the held angle is an outta-my-way 65.8 degrees, and 66.4 degrees in the steeper position. Full geometry is listed below, and the frame weight is around 3.5kg.
Having previously fallen in love with the BH Lynx 4.8 29er, we were a little underwhelmed with some aspects of the BH Lynx 6 which we tested recently. Yes, it rode very well, but when compared to the stunning, curvy construction we’d been treated to with the Lynx 4.8 29, the Lynx 6 felt a bit rough. This new bike more than makes amends in that department! The lines of this bike are seamless.
The Lynx 627 is not just a carbon version of the Lynx 6, but features a completely revised suspension layout. Gone is the funky arrangement that saw the shock piercing the frame, with the shock now located vertically in front of the seat tube. Taking a look at the geometry chart, the slack head angle (67-degrees) and short stays (425mm) have instant appeal, but we’ll see how those figures translate to the trail.
BH have specced an appropriately aggressive cockpit and fork too, with a FOX 34 up front. The 627 carries over the remote front/rear lockouts we saw on the Lynx 6. Undoubtedly they’re a useful addition, but they do somewhat disrupt the bike’s clean look. We’re sure we’ll get used to them!
Expect a full review soon, we’re really looking forward to this one!
When Yeti’s 575 disappeared from the Colorado-based brand’s range a couple of year ago, the crew here at Flow were devastated. We rank it right up there with the disappearance of Scribbler ice blocks in the disappointment stakes. But then, like a leader in exile, the 575 made a glorious return, and while it was away it underwent a fantastic transformation.
The 2014 575 is proof that a classic bike can be modernised, without damaging its original appeal – something that few remakes ever achieve (VW Beetle, we’re looking at you).
The 575 retains its unmistakable profile and simple, effective suspension configuration, but the ‘old-school’ 26” wheels have been upsized to 27.5”, the spring curve has been changed to provide more mid-stroke support, the formerly carbon seat stays are now alloy, and there’s internal dropper post routing amongst a host of other tweaks.
With the move to 27.5” wheels, the geometry was also brought in for a nip and tuck too; Yeti slackened the head angle (now 67 degrees) and slightly lengthened the front-centre measurement too, in line with the trend towards long top-tubes / short stems. But the overall fit and feel of the 575 hasn’t changed one bit – think your favourite track suit pants; instantly comfortable. It has a relaxed, slightly upright position that is best suited to big days in the saddle and which takes absolutely no effort to get used to.
Compared to the new-wave suspension designs that abound on the most modern Yetis (check out the new Infinity design here), the single pivot 575 is like a blast from the past. The seat stay drives a swing link, which deliver 5.75” /146mm travel from a FOX CTD damper. It’s a reliable, proven design. While there are some drawbacks to this simple system, it has the benefits of being easy to understand and maintain, it’s relatively lightweight, is cost effective to produce and works bloody well in most trail situations. Sometimes, with so much development emphasis and marketing directed at suspension configurations, it’s nice to ride a bike that reminds us there’s more to a good bike than a fancy wheel path.
As we’ve always found with the 575, the sizing runs a little tall, with a long seat tube and fairly high handlebar position relative to the reach. For shorter riders, (especially with a 150mm fork fitted) the bar position may be a bit high, so switching to a headset with a lower stack height or running a negative rise stem might be the trick.
As a bike that instantly appeals to the traditionalists, it’s nice to see that the 575 still fits a water bottle within the mainframe, a feature that is missing from the new crop of Yetis. Tyre clearance is a little tight but up to a 2.35” should clear with minimal rub in the corners. We were running the massive Schwalbe Hans Dampf on the rear and we did notice a bit of scuffing where the tyres had rubbed on the seat stays.
For a classic bike, our build kit was anything but, with a suite of sweet all-mountain components. 2014 will be remembered as the year that SRAM dominatde the all-mountain / Enduro segment, and the 575 gets a Reverb post, X01 drivetrain and superb Rockshox Pike fork, along with a set of Elixir brakes. We opted to encase the Easton wheels with meaty Schwalbe rubber, which may have done us no favours in terms of rolling speed but gave the 575 cornering and braking traction like a cat on a billiard table.
As befits such a nice bike, the cockpit gets a Thompson stem and carbon Easton bar. We’d prefer to see a headset with a lower stack height, just to give riders the option of getting lower up front.
The 575 is available with a range of different build kits, none of which we’d call low-end, so you can really make this bike as light and Gucci as your wallet will allow. Our bike clocked in at $5600 and 12.62kg.
Having spent a lot of time on previous versions of this bike, getting back onto the 575 was kind of like dropping by to visit grandma’s house…after she’d died and someone else has moved in. It smells the same, but the taffeta curtains are gone and there’s now a modern flat screen TV.
It’s a seriously familiar feeling bike; the top tube length isn’t rangy like many new all-mountain bikes, there aren’t any funky on-the-fly shock adjusters on the bars, you’ve got a spot for your water bottle. It’s just so easy to get along with!
Getting the suspension balance right with the 575 has been a bit of challenge in years past; the suspension design tended to blow though the middle portion of the travel quite easily. For 2014, Yeti really focused on creating a more progressive ride, and for the most part they’ve succeeded, with the bike sitting higher in the suspension stroke and not bottoming out as readily. We did still ultimately end up running a tad less sag than usual (more like 20% than the usual 25%) in order to get the front and rear suspension to work as a team. Taking the time to get it right makes all the difference.
Putting a Pike on the front of a bike is like having four or five beers before you hit the disco – it imbues you with so much confidence you’d swear you were the best rider/dancer in existence. With a slacker head angle than previous versions, the monstrous contact patch of the Schwalbe front tyre AND the Pike, the 575 is now far more adept at running things over than in the past. The improved front/rear balance helps keep the bike on a more even keel too, when you get in too deep, the bike doesn’t find itself all bottomed-out and out of shape.
Unlike more modern suspension designs, the 575 doesn’t exactly rocket forward when you mash the pedals. Out of the saddle sprints can set the rear suspension bobbing unless you rely on the shock’s CTD lever to keep the monkey motion to a minimum. We were disinclined to use the Trail mode on the rear shock in most cases, finding it a bit firm, especially as the fork is so freakishly plush. It’s not really a ‘sprinty’ kind of bike, favouring a more consistent kind of pedalling. Spin and win.
For an alloy bike, the 575 is remarkably quiet. Partly this is due to the stable X01 drivetrain, but the clean, rattle-free cable routing plays a roll, as does the bike’s overall suspension smoothness. When it comes to eagerly slurping up the bumps, the effectiveness of the 575 does make you wonder how some more complicated designs really stack up in the complication/effectiveness ledger.
With its full alloy construction, the 575 makes it more affordable than ever to own a Yeti full suspension bike – still, we’d shudder to use the term ‘price point’ with reference to this great machine. The 575 proves to us that a classic can be reinvented, reformed and evolved without losing any of its original vibe. The fact that this bike continues to be real performer does also subtly call into question how much development is actually genuine progress, versus mere sideways stepping. As a long-legged trail bike, or a mellow all-mountain steed, the 575 is still as relevant, capable and desirable as ever.
Last week, Flow was fortunate enough to spend the day up in the rolling hills of Old Hidden Vale, a serene oasis of singletrack to the west of Brisbane. We were there to take a closer look at the 2015 line up from Advance Traders, the Aussie distributors of Norco, Merida and Lapierre. Old Hidden Vale is a key location in the Brissy mountain bike scene, home to a suite of races, and the kind of place you could easily lose yourself for a weekend of riding – put it on the list!
Here we bring you our pick of the 2015 Norco bunch, the bikes that got us most excited and which we hope you’ll take a shining to too. We took advantage of Old Hidden Vale’s fast, swooping trails to get familiar with the Sight C 7.2 as well, and we’ve included our first ride impressions below.
Of all the bikes on display, it was the Sight, Range and Revolver series that really grabbed us. Norco’s year-on-year refinement over the past four or five years has been pretty incredible to watch, and the brand has certainly lifted in our esteem. Here are our favourite models.
The Range series, now in its second season as a 650B-wheeled bike, is globally one of the brand’s biggest sellers. It’s the embodiment of an all-mountain machine; 160mm-travel at both ends, with geometry that blends balls-out descending with respectable climbing. There are both carbon and alloy models, and for 2015 they share the same geometry. In 2014, the alloy versions had more of a ‘trail’ focus with slightly steeper angles, but Norco have realised that riders on a budget (or just fans of aluminium) want to shred the descents too, so they’ve now given the alloy bikes the same ‘enduro’ geometry too.
The $5999 Range C 7.2, above, had riders clamouring all over it, and while we weren’t able to bag a test ride on it (mainly because we couldn’t stop ourselves from riding the Sight!), we we grabbed it for a closer look.
Combing a carbon mainframe and seat stay, with an alloy chain stay / linkage, the Range C 7.2 comes in at around 12kg. The construction and all black presentation is instantly appealing, and it’s specced to the eyeballs with some of the finest ‘enduro’ finery going. Geometry wise, the bike runs a 66-degree head angle, which is balanced enough to rail descents and still negotiate flatter trails or an uphill switchback without feeling like a barge.
As with most bikes in the Norco line up, the Range series employs Norco’s Gravity Tune concept, which essentially means the rear-centre measurement of the bike is shorter for the smaller sized frames and longer in the larger frames. As opposed to traditional bike sizing (which simply lengthens the front-centre or top tube measurement in bigger sizes), the Gravity Tune concept is designed to keep the rider position consistent across the size range.
While the C 7.2 was the show stopper, the Range series continues in fine form all the way down to a very attainable $2699 price point, maintaing the same geometry and travel throughout, with smart spec too. We think it’s the $3699 Range A 7.1 that’s going to fit the bill for a lot of riders. For this money, we’re yet to see a more refined all-mountain bike than this one.
The geometry and suspension design is proven, but it’s the clever spec that makes this bike a winner; putting a Pike on a bike at this price is just about unheard of, the FOX CTD shock is reliable and smooth, the tyres are excellent, the cockpit suited to task… there just aren’t any real holes in the bike at all. We’re certain that a lot of riders will ditch the front derailleur and go single ring, which will just make this bike lighter and lower fuss once again.
The $2699 Range A 7.2 hits a very tasty price point. Lower cost suspension (X-Fusion and Marzocchi) and the absence of a dropper post help keep the price down, but the frame is identical to the Range A 7.1 and all the key elements are there: stiff fork, excellent tyres, clutch derailleur, wide handlebar…. it’s all sorted.
One step down in terms of travel, you’ll find the Sight series. This 140mm-travel platform has had accolades heaped upon it by the cycling media, and we tested one last year in Rotorua. For 2015, Norco have continued to refine the Sight, and the carbon Sight C 7.2 is one of the nicest trail bikes we’ve seen for the new season. We spent more time on this bike than any other out at Old Hidden Vale and the improvements offered (particularly in terms of the suspension) represent a big leap in performance.
There is an awful lot that we liked about this bike, but nothing more so than the way it encouraged us to sprint flat out at every corner, just to see how fast we could get around it! It grips like a go-kart, accelerates like a much shorter travel bike, and has geometry that made us look for things to launch off everywhere – it’s just fun. We’ll definitely be looking to secure a full review on this bike in the coming months.
With 650B wheels, we feel that 140mm of travel is a real sweet spot for technical trail riding, as is the Sight’s geometry with a 67.5 degree head angle. The geometry is actually unchanged from last year, but the bike now comes with a shorter stem and a wider bar, and the better part of a kilo has been shed with a far more suitable tyre choice. On top of all this, the Sight C 7.2 gets a ridiculously good suspension package, with Cane Creek’s new DB InLine shock and a Pike RC fork.
Just as with the Range series, the Sight series trickles down to some pretty competitive price points with alloy-framed variants that share the same geometry. In the Sight series, it’s the $3599 Sight A 7.1 that we feel is going to be a favourite. The Shimano blend for the drivetrain and brakes is perfect, and the tasty Rockshox Revelation and KS dropper post just sweeten the deal.
One bike that had a perpetual cloud of admirers was the Formula 1-esque Revolver 9 SL, and it’s not hard to see why – it has the vibe of some kind of ‘concept bike’, but this is a full-blown production model. Sleek construction, complemented by the new inverted Rockshox RS1, lets you know this bike lives for the racetrack. The $5999 price tag seems a lot, till you consider the fork alone will set you back almost two and a half grand at retail.
As Norco’s cross country race series, there are both 650B and 29er Revolvers available – they haven’t committed to a single wheel size for this genre of riding just yet. We recently reviewed the 2014 Revolver 7.1, so we’re eager to review the 2015 29er equivalent.
Hold tight for all the highlights from the 2015 Merida range too, in the coming days, including their all-new 120mm platform.
Giant has just re-birthed their much loved Reign and it’s a meaner beast than ever, a genetically enhanced freak of all-mountain awesomeness; 160mm-travel, 27.5″ wheels and carbon construction. It also looks good, with maybe the best graphics of any Giant mountain bike to date.
But what does it ride like? That’s the big question. As an executive summary – it’s really good.
At the recent 2015 launch of the Reign (and Glory) Flow got to spend a couple of days on the trails of Pemberton, Canada. It proved a great testing ground to develop some initial thoughts on the performance of the bike. Riding for two days isn’t long enough to a really get a good feel, but it is just long enough to get a taste of wanting more. And more we want.
With the rise and rise of Enduro racing, long travel, slack angles, and aggressive geometry are the flavour of the year; with angles more akin to downhill rigs of yesteryear, you could easily excuse yourself for thinking that everything old is indeed new again. However what this new breed of aggressive bikes have when compared to their downhill ancestors is ride-ability, and more importantly, usability.
The Giant is no exception to that rule. With a 65 degree head angle and 160mm of travel it could be considered more suited to downhill shuttles than trail riding however we found the bike handled lengthy rides and all-mountain adventures with ease. We got to prove that very fact with one epic heli-drop adventure up, down and around the massive peaks of Pemberton.
At the core of the new Reign is an all-new frame and highly revised geometry. Longer, lower, slacker and shorter in the rear end is a quick summary of the new bike and the numbers add up to something that really is designed to go downhill. Even though the Reign now comes with larger wheels it’s shorter in the chainstays the the previous 26″ version, which makes it easier to move around corners and lift the now longer front end. That roomier cockpit and longer front-end can make any bike a slug to handle on flatter corners and Giant has attempted to alleviate this with a custom 46mm offset Pike. We actually found less “push” on the flatter turns than we expected.
The suspension design is the ever effective Maestro set up and Giant don’t look to be changing that platform any time soon. Adding to the performance of the system is the incorporation of a bearing on the upper shock mount which Giant says benefits small bump performance.
A big change, and it’s across the whole range, is the loss of Overdrive 2. Once marketed to us as the best-thing-since-sliced-bread to increase front end stiffness, it’s now gone. Maybe it was true and the benefits where real, but the industry didn’t follow and Giant was left without a lot of choice given the absence of after market stems to suit the size.
The last point we’d like to mention is the aesthetics. The bike looks REALLY good. It has large, bold tubes and graphics, and really neat and functional internal cable routing. We just wish the prettiness of the cable routing was backed up by an absence of cable rattle, but unfortunately this isn’t the case (nothing that a piece of foam won’t fix thought!)
Of course we were thrown the top of the range model! At such a high price point you’d expect some quality spec, and the Reign Advanced 0 Team won’t let you down. Suspension is taken care of by Rock Shox (no FOX out back, which is a surprise) with a custom 46mmm offset 160mm Pike handing the front end, and a Monarch Plus out back. Both performed really well during our riding and only after a 10km rocky and rough downhill on a hot day did we notice the rear shock starting to heat up and speed up a fraction.
The 50mm stem and 780mm bar combo was great and even though that bar length is a little wider than we normal run it was easy to get used to. It is great to see a bike pretty much set-up how we’d run it, right out of the box. The only thing we didn’t like about the cockpit was the grips. We’ve never liked them, but that’s personal preference.
SRAM goodness takes care of all the shifting and we’ve written at length about how well the XX1 set-up works. No issues and great performance were experienced from the XX1 gear, but you wouldn’t expect any after only two days. The Reign does have a direct mount port for a front derailleur if you’re so inclined, but we’d love to have seen Giant ditch it as an option all together for supremely clean lines.
Our test bike had two differences from the OEM spec: the tyres and the brakes. The Giant Advanced 0 Team will come with the Schwable combo of Hans Dampf out back and Magic Mary front and from our experience they will be great. Our bikes also had Avid Codes but the final spec will be the new Guide brakes which we’re yet to experience and so can’t comment on their performance.
Over two days we rode the bike on a mix of trails; from scree slopes straight out of any freeride film, to dry and loose soil, to baby head fields of doom – we rode it all. Our first impressions? It is a downhill beast. It sucks up the worst of it and gives confidence to let off the brakes a little more. We actually were able to ride the Reign side-by-side with the new Glory, and while it’s not quite up to the 200mm-travel performance of its bigger sibling it was just speed that was lost, not ability to navigate the terrain comfortably. We can easily say that this bike would be able to handle 99% of trails in Australia.
But all that downhill ability must come at a cost right? Well, we didn’t notice any. Sure, it’s not World Cup XCO machine on the climbs but riding the Reign up hills never felt difficult and with the suspension adjustments front and back the geometry was easily changed to something a little more climb friendly. Just drop the Dual Position fork a little lower, and flick the easy-to-reach shock lever.
Cornering was great with a sub-340mm bottom bracket height really helped to keep traction through the turns. A few times we smashed our pedals, but that was only when pushed through all the travel on trails littered with baby-heads. Any bike with a low bottom bracket will need more attention in that department.
Overall the ride was great, and the super descending abilities were’t to the detriment of an excellent all-mountain ride.
We really need to spend more time on the Reign, and we expect that we will. So far it’s proved to be an amazing re-birth of an old workhorse and a bike that really starts to blur the lines between downhill and all-mountain when it comes to descending, but which somehow retains genuine all-round usability. Only a few negatives for us: for the price we’d love to have seen some carbon wheels on the Reign 0, we still don’t like Giant grip or the rattly cables, but that’s it. The price tag of the Reign Advanced 0 Team will keep it in the realms of impossibility for many, however the exact same platform extends down to lower spec and price levels. If you’re after a longer travel bike for all-mountain riding, Enduro racing or even as lightweight downhiller you can still take out all day, the Reign has to be on your shortlist. We’re adding it to ours.
Giant have just released two long travel gravity inspired 27.5″ machines for MY2015; the re-born 27.5″ 160mm Reign, and the updated 200mm 27.5″ Glory. These new eye-popping machines put a final nail in Giant’s 26″ MTB coffin and enforces Giant’s total commitment to the midsize wheel being their bike of the future.
Set in the magical backdrop of the Pemberton valley in Canada, Flow was invited to two days of information and bike riding on the new gravity machines. We got to both see and ride both bikes and put them through a brief test on the rough, dry and dusty trails. Flow spent more time on the Reign than the Glory and look for our First Bite on the Reign to appear real soon.
[divider] Here Comes the Reign Again [/divider]
Missing from Giant’s lineup in 2014 the Reign has returned, and better than ever. Striking in looks and aggressive in design, the Reign pushes the boundaries of all-mountain capabilities. Maybe even blurring the lines of what we think a downhill bike is. To add weight to that statement Flow caught up with Giant Enduro World Series racers Josh Carlson and Yoann Barelli just a few days prior to the official lunch in Pemberton, Canada and got their honest opinions of the new bike.
“It’s a downhill weapon”, stated Yohun. “You can really just point it and the bike will take care of the rest.”
Both Josh and Yoann were equally amazed at the Reign and its descending abilities and they also make mention of it’s all-day riding capabilities, as it’s something they generally have to do in their race environment.
Our test and show bikes were the top of the line Reign Advanced 0 with a carbon front triangle and aluminium rear end. We think the bike looked good with a bold new colour and decal scheme and clean lines enhanced with internal cable routing. Other features include the removal (or some may say reversal) of the OD2 steerer standard, 142mm rear end, 1x set-up, 50mm stem and 780mm bars. Aesthetically the bike looks a million dollars and at $7599 it should do too.
The 2015 Reign has been in development for years and is more than a re-hash of the previous models. Giant admitted that it took some time to get the geometry right and went to pains to ensure it actually rode well. It’s lower, slacker, and has a shorter rear end than its 26″ predecessor and the Reign comes with a custom 46mm offset fork (versus 42mm) to ensure that better ride. It’s with noting that this offset is custom to Giant at the moment.
For those who like the numbers here are a few (size M):
Head Angle: 65 degrees
Seat Angle: 73 degrees
Chainstay: 434 mm
Wheelbase: 1191 mm
Stack: 577 mm
Reach: 444 mm
We got to spend a couple of days on the Reign and we’ll soon have our first impressions posted in more detail however as a summary the new 2015 Reign is a really great bike, it’s that simple. It is an aggressive all-mountain machine, it munches up rocks and obstacles, descends very well, and actually wasn’t bad to climb (we even had climbing challenges on our rides). Yeah, we know, that’s what they say about every bike, but it’s true, we found that the Reign really can be ridden everywhere and felt surprisingly light. Did we notice the new wheel size? No, not really. We have been riding the tween wheels for a long time now and it’s not going to be noticeable. Also, of we’re going to be picky we’d fix the cable rattle noise that can be noticed (only occasionally) . We know it’s not a big issue but for $7500 we really would be looking for perfection.
It’s going to be interesting to see how the bike will fit into the Australian terrain but it’s definitely going to make you think about your next bike choice if you’re gravity oriented. It you’re an Enduro racer then this is a perfect bike, and if you’re sitting on fence of DH vs all-mountain/Enduro then we too think this is perfect.
Available in Australia will be 4 models of the Reign, ranging from $3299 for the aluminium Reign 27.5 2, up to the top of the range Reign Advanced 0 team at $7499. Also, note that the brakes on out test bike are Code’s however they will come spec’d with new SRAM Guide.
[divider]Glory, Glory Hallelujah[/divider]
The new 2015 Glory has grown bigger wheels however it’s also grown a longer shock (240×76), has a longer front/centre, but shrunk at the rear end and has a lower bottom bracket than its 26″ predecessor. It also has has some other changes to include revised cable routing, an integrated fork bumper, bearings on the upper shock pivot – amongst others.
The 27.5″ Glory has been in development for a few years however it was only after the World Cup in Leogang last year where the final touches to the geometry were completed for production. Constant feedback from the Giant team riders pushed the development to that last point as the new wheel size meant some difficult adjustments. In early blind testing the 27.5″ Glory was immediately quicker than the 26″ however the rider feedback was less convincing. So, Giant took the time to ensure that not only was the bike quicker on the clocks, but comfortable for the riders.
We got to throw our legs over the new Glory only briefly on a few lifted runs on the rocky trails of Pemberton and early impression are too juvenile to warrant lengthy comment. Yep, the bike was fast and fun, it took big hits, but more time on the bike will yield better information.
The Glory will only be available in aluminium and a carbon version is something we would have liked to have seen. Giant do counter this by saying that their Glory is actually lighter then other carbon downhill offerings but carbon is just sexy and who wouldn’t want a sexy DH bike?
The Glory will come in 3 models for Australia and be priced from $2899 – $5999.
It’d be hard to find a brand or genre of mountain bikes that we haven’t ridden here at Flow. This one, on the other hand, is as unique as a vegetarian dog, a real one-off, a prototype. Handmade in a home garage in Adelaide, this wild and unique contraption of a bike deserves a nod of respect, and the man behind this concept deserves a beer.
Flow was fortunate to have the P3 in our possession for a couple weeks, riding it was fun, but what we loved the most about it was the way it made us really think.
The iTrack P3 All-Mountain we received at Flow is currently the only one in existence, ridden by the frame builder Hugh Mcleay himself. In the name of development, Hugh eagerly awaits feedback and opinions from anyone who rides it, every point is taken on board to add to the development of the next prototype. Derived from two earlier downhill bike prototypes, the recent availability of single ring drivetrains has allowed this concept to be applied to all-mountain bikes, like this guy.
Wow, where do we start? Apart from being a chromoly steel frame, there are also obvious differences between the iTrack and your common mountain bike. The P3′s suspension system is centred around a four-bar linkage configuration with a rearward travelling rear axle, which isn’t that unique, just that it moves rearwards significantly more than most. But where the P3 really differs from similar ‘short-link’ four bar designs is the incorporation of an idler pulley.
We’ve seen pulleys used in mountain bikes before, with varying amounts of success. For example Redalp, a Swiss brand who use a similar frame design in their bikes, but fall far behind in looks, oh dear… In most other systems that use an idler, the pulley is typically static and is used as a way to reduce pedal kickback caused by dramatically rearward axle paths. But in the case of the P3 the idler moves moves upwards and rearwards as the suspension compresses, which allows the rate of chain growth, and therefore anti-squat, to be tuned throughout the suspension range.
As we mentioned in our first impression piece on the bike before testing, the main aim of all this is to create a bike that has a) has a rearward axle path for exceptional bump-eating b) doesn’t rely on excessive low-speed compression damping for pedalling efficiency c) doesn’t suffer from too much pedal feedback d) has an anti-squat profile that is variable throughout the suspension travel.
Curious to know more of the technical details? Luckily their website is loaded with more information than most of us can possibly handle. Check it out.
Suspension travel is 150mm, but if you measure the distance the rear axle travels, and not just the vertical path, travel amount is closer to 158mm. The fork is 150mm, and all the frame geometry and important angles that depict the bike’s handling are very much in-line with the popular 150-160mm travel bikes that we know and love already. Think Santa Cruz Nomad, or a Yeti SB66. Wheels are 650B, and with big tyres like we have here, it’s ready to mow down the roughest trails.
It’s a prototype, so the spec isn’t really the main point, but to credit to the frame builders – who obviously ride the bikes they build – the P3 is built up to best represent what the bike is all about. Big rubber, wide bars, short stem and powerful brakes allow the rider to let it hang out a bit, and hit terrain fast. A Formula fork is not something we see often, but its low weight and consistent feel is more than satisfactory, we reviewed one earlier this year.
Syntace wheels with wide rims and a ridiculously loud rear hub are another low weight but sturdy component choice for hard riding.
A Cane Creek Double Barrell shock is at the heart of the suspension, with a whole lot of adjustment to play with if you so desire, we left it as it came to us, but if we had the bike longer, some experimenting with the smorgasbord of compression and rebound settings would be an interesting process.
All this fuss, all this technical talk, what does it all boil down to? It has to be worth something, right? This bike works, and it works very well with the claimed benefits of the suspension design doing just what they intend to.
Pedalling into the trail for the first time, the bike felt so normal, the seating position was nicely centred, and the head angle not too slack for solid all-mountain riding. It was just when we started to pedal along a fire trail littered with loose rubble and embedded rock that we noticed things were very smooth indeed. The rear shock was hyper active, reacting quickly and effectively to the terrain, even whilst pedal forces were applying tension to the chain.
We were heading into Red Hill, in Sydney’s Northern Beaches, a long-loved testing ground for Flow’s test bikes. The washed out, rutted, stepped sandstone terrain was what we were after to push the iTrack hard. It loved very minute of it. With almost 160mm of rear wheel travel, the bike was always going to feel pretty capable.
But where it shines is hiding all that travel when pedalling. Despite its big and heavy tyres and overall mass, the iTrack didn’t feel too clumsy when winding through flatter singletrack, or climbing up pinch climbs on the trail.
We ignored the temptation to use the shock’s Climb Switch and found the iTrack worked a treat, resistant to getting bogged down but not stiffening so much as to sacrifice climbing grip. Sure, we’d still use the Climb Switch on a really smooth climb, but we didn’t feel it was needed off road.
To be expected with a good whack of travel, it’s not a poppy or playful bike, rather a trail bully, with real attitude. It’s a bike that begs you to plough down the trail, rather than dart all over the place searching for a smoother line. Given how much the bike cries out for abuse, we did feel that the suspension curve needs a little refining still, as it’s quite hard to get the last 20% of travel out of the shock which makes the bike a little ‘spiky’ when taking on a flat landing.
We hope that these bikes make it into production. With a few refinements to the suspension curve and a lighter weight material used for the frame, this bike will be a fantastic machine.
Before we sign off this review let’s just clarify one thing. We’re not trying to sell you this bike as the latest and greatest, nor is iTrack Suspension aiming to steer you away from the big brands with claims that it’s better than anything else out there. This is simply a great and inspiring story, an act of passion for bikes, the engineering and design of mountain bike suspension and realising the dream of making something truly special that actually works.
They’ll be available for purchase one day soon, and that’s an opportunity to ride something different, with a story. So, before you say ‘why?’ try and think along the lines, of ‘ok, that made me think’.
Five Ten, known for their gooey, gluey, tacky and sticky soled shoes for flat pedal thundering also do clip less shoes, and good ones too. Their latest shoes have been spotted on the feet of Greg Minnaar, Bryn Atkinson, and our new buddy, Nico Vouilloz. Light enough for trail riding, and offering great foot protection when downhilling, these shoes look the goods.
Available also in a flat pedal, non-clipless sole, the Impact Vxi aims to drop weight out of their popular range. The Hellcat was Five Ten’s latest clip less shoe, but was criticised for its weight, so they’ve used lighter materials and less of it to produce these new shoes. These fast foot Ferrari’s are only 431 grams in size 42.
The shoes fit, so we’ll be stomping around the trails on these fresh kicks from now on. Stay tuned for more.
The Spanish have a reputation for being hot-blooded, passionate folk, who are very good at dancing. The Lynx, from ye olde Spanish bike brand BH, is also a fine dancer, performing a lively flamenco through the singletrack.
The 150mm-travel Lynx 6 uses those new fandangled 650B wheels, a full aluminium frame, and a unique configurations with the rear shock piercing the seat tube. As with all the Lynx series bikes, the bike is assembled around a Dave Weagle designed Split Pivot suspension system. It’s a very effective suspension configuration, offering excellent performance both under pedalling and braking, with top-notch small bump sensitivity. The shock is not actually mounted to the mainframe, instead it’s sandwiched between the upper link and the chain stays. This offers BH more control over the suspension curve.
If you like handlebar levers, you’ll like the BH Lynx 6. This bike comes configured with a remote lock-out for both the fork and rear shock. We’re almost glad there’s not a dropper post to add to the mix! Some people will love the remote activation, as it is handy particularly for the rear shock, others will prefer a cleaner look. Ideally, we’d keep the remote for the rear end, but not for the fork. You’ll notice in these shots that there is no remote fitted for the fork or the shock – we experimented with leaving the remote lockout levers both on and off the bike during testing.
We’ll be up front; compared to the sublime construction we found on the carbon Lynx 4.8 29 (one of the nicest finished bikes we’ve seen), the alloy Lynx 6 feels a little rough around the edges. For instance, with so many cables going on, it’s a pity more thought wasn’t given to keeping them all quiet! There is a lot of noise from the internally routed gear cables rattling around inside the top tube and down tube. We ultimately took the fork out of the bike and pushed some lightweight foam into the frame (something we’ve had to do on road bikes in the past) to keep the cables from pinging around so much.The absence of any chain slap protection is also downer – it’s such a simple addition and really should be standard fare on a bike of this price.
While the BH doesn’t come with a dropper post (it will for 2015) there’s cable routing in place. You’ve also got room for a full-sized water bottle and frame is up to date with a direct mount front mech, press-fit bottom bracket and a 142x12mm rear end, plus direct mount brake tabs. The pivot hardware is cool too, with a cassette lock-ring tool being used to keep many of the pivots tight – this is a great idea, allowing a solid fit for the tool that won’t round out.
A $3999 asking price fetches you a suitably specced machine; Shimano XT and SLX throughout, with FOX Evolution series suspension. The Stan’s Arch EX wheelset is a highlight, contributing greatly to the bikes playful handling. Schwalbe Nobby Nics are a safe all-rounder, and they’re perfect for tubeless conversion.
The FOX fork is a 32mm version, rather than the stouter 34, which won’t faze lighter riders, but bigger dudes might lament this skinnier choice. Either way, both the fork and shock are as smooth and hassle-free as it gets, and very easy to setup.
Keen-eyed readers will notice that we’ve changed the bar and stem on the BH. The original cockpit on the BH was well out of step with current design trends, with a 90mm stem and 690mm bar, when a 60/70mm stem and 740mm+ bar is the industry norm for this style of bike.
Riding a bike like this without a dropper post is a little frustrating, you end up feeling a bit constrained, like you can’t unleash bike’s full fury. We’d encourage you to fit a dropper post ASAP. Whether or not you prefer a single-ring or double-ring drivetrain, you simply cannot fault the performance of Shimano XT. Superb shifting, with a crisp lever feel and we never dropped a chain either.
While we weren’t 100% impressed by the BH’s construction, we had no qualms with the way it handles just about every situation on the trail.
The Lynx, once we’d fitted a more appropriate bar and stem, has ideal geometry. With a low bottom bracket and a slack head angle, you feel like you’re able to really attack every corner. It’s a bike that responds really well to a bit of aggressive body language too; give the rear wheel a bit of a shove as you enter a corner and it’ll fling its tail out wide and drift beautifully!
It’s happiest once you’re up to speed, changing direction faster than its slack head angle should allow. At slower speeds or on steep climbs the front wheel is a little wayward, but that’s always a trade off, and one we’re happy to live with.
A real highlight of the BH is just how smooth the suspension is. It has a very linear suspension feel, using its full travel easily. It just hoovers up rough trails brilliantly, regardless of whether you’re pedalling, on the brakes or out of the saddle just hanging on. Given the bike’s awesome appetite for choppy terrain, it’s a surprisingly good climber as well. The bike’s excellent small bump sensitivity means there’s traction aplenty and you never feel like you’re pedalling a recumbent.
The Lynx 6 is a mixed bag. It’s a bike that is beautifully designed – the suspension system is great, the geometry ideal – but it’s just not quite as refined as we’d hoped in a construction sense. Perhaps it’s just that previous BHs we’ve ridden set the bar so high! The BH is a lively, buttery smooth ride, it just needs a bit of love to help it realise its full potential.
Bonjour, from the disgustingly scenic French Alps, where Flow has been invited to lift the lid on the 2015 Lapierre range.
For 2015 the Lapierre XR, Zesty and Spicy models will use e:i Auto, the next generation of e:i Shock. Frame construction and geometries remain the same as 2014 but a few spec changes will surely please those interested in these fine steeds. A full review will follow shortly, but first up let’s take a closer look at what e:i Auto is all about.
The main focus for Lapierre in 2015 is to improve on the whole e:i Shock system, their very successful electronically and automatically adjusted suspension system. e:i Auto is simpler, more discreet and from what we can gather the changes made will certainly iron out any of the issues that stopped the current e:i system from functioning correctly 100% of the time.
Electronic bits and pieces on mountain bikes are a hard sell to consumers. What’s the need, right? Well, let’s start by saying that there can be no hiding the fact that here are Flow we’ve been long fans of Lapierre bikes, we always seem to hang onto them for longer than usual. They tick so many of the most important boxes, especially when it comes to their very balanced and efficient rear suspension platform and ideal frame geometry for shredding trails with confidence.
Our most loved model – the Zesty – is a bloody kick arse bike for Australian terrain, it seems just right. But in truth we’ve had our fair share of issues with a few of the e:i bikes we’ve had on test. All the issues have been caused by two things; the computer connection, and the wiring inside the frame. We’re often asked how the Lapierre’s perform with the e:i Shock. We love it, when it works.
What is e:i Shock anyhow?
The system uses inputs from two different sensors – one at the front wheel/fork, one in the cranks – to determine the optimum setting for the rear suspension at any given moment. If you’re riding rough terrain, the system opens the rear suspension damping right up for the best bump absorption. If you’re pedalling along on undulating terrain, a moderate level of low-speed compression is activated. If you’re riding smooth terrain, the rear suspension is made firmer again. And all of this happens in 0.1 seconds.
It’s also able to be controlled manually – as did the original system – via the easily accessed button on the side of the system. An LED light changes from green, to orange and red to communicate what setting the shock is in.
[divider]What’s new with 2015 e:i Auto[/divider]
The bulky and plasticky head computer that sat on top of the stem is gone, so is the button console next to the grip. They’ve been replaced by just one small and unobtrusive button with one LED light sitting on the side of the stem – the LED indicates which mode you’re in.
The wiring connections and junctions between the sensors and battery inside the frame have also undergone improvements. These two factors alone immediately make us happy, and our faith is completely reinstated in the design.
Further simplifying the system is the removal of the front wheel magnet and without the display computer the speed, cadence, trip distance, time information etc is also gone. We won’t miss it, and everyone serious about capturing and monitoring data has a GPS type thingo or uses Strava on their phones anyway, so we doubt we’d be the only ones not missing these functions.
The battery changes shape and sits off the left side of the down tube, freeing up the area for a water bottle cage.
The cadence speed needed to activate the system has been lowered from 45 RPM to 30 RPM to accommodate for the impact larger diameter wheels and 1×11 drivetrains which often see a slower cadence. The system was originally developed when 26″ wheels were more common.
The automatic sensitivity settings have been reduced from five to three (the first three) furthermore simplifying the whole thing.
[divider]What’s new with the 2015 Zesty and Spicy range[/divider]
No more Formula brakes, in favour of more SRAM and Shimano.
All-aluminium seat stays on high end Zesty. No more carbon, plus they are narrower to reduce the heel rubbing experienced by many riders.
Easton wheels are gone from the range, replaced by Race Face and SRAM.
More RockShox spec, with the brilliant Pike through the range of Zesty AM and Spicy.
Michelin tyres on high end Spicy models, and the new generation (much tougher) Schwalbe Nobby Nics on Zesty.
New Fast Black coating on the RockShox Monarch rear shocks, giving smoother and more sensitive.
A revised spring curve and shock tune.
We can’t help wishing Lapierre had refined the e:i Shock system just a little bit more in 2013, these improvements we see now will surely future-proof the electronic system from the incidental problems that were experienced. The concept is flawless, it works remarkably well. Now it’s time to put some time on the new rigs to deliver our verdict.
Those of you out there in Flow Land who were readers of the magazine may recall an interview we did with Hugh McLeahy. Hugh has more engineering savvy than your typical bloke and he’d begun creating his own dual suspension frames, fabricating them right there in his own garage.
His designs were built around a suspension system of his own creation, called I-Track, and he initially debuted the concept with a downhill bike that he built from chromoly steel. He’s now evolved the concept further, incorporating his new incarnation of I-Track into a 160mm all-mountain bike that we’ve been lucky enough to borrow for a few weeks.
Before you get your wallets out, this bike isn’t going to be available for sale in its current format. Like the earlier downhill bike, the P3 is currently built from steel, but Hugh is hoping to have a production version made from aluminium available for sale within the next 12 months.
It’s obviously a very unique bike, but what’s it all about? (TECH WARNING)The P3’s suspension system is centred around a four-bar linkage configuration with a significantly rearward axle path. But where the P3 differs from similar ‘short-link’ four bar designs is the incorporation of an idler pulley.
The idler moves moves upwards and rearwards as the suspension compresses, which allows the rate of chain growth, and therefore anti-squat, to be tuned throughout the suspension range.
Idler pulleys aren’t anything new (for example, look at Brooklyn Machine Works, K-9 Industries or many others), but this is the first time we’ve seen an idler which is mounted to the suspension linkage in this manner. In most other systems that use an idler, the pulley is typically static and is used as a way to reduce pedal kickback caused by dramatically rearward axle paths. But in the case of the P3 the idler moves moves upwards and rearwards as the suspension compresses, which allows the rate of chain growth, and therefore anti-squat, to be tuned throughout the suspension range.
The whole idea is to create a bike that: a) has a rearward axle path b) doesn’t rely on excessive low-speed compression damping for pedalling efficiency c) doesn’t suffer from too much pedal feedback d) has an anti-squat profile that is variable throughout the suspension travel.
One notable aspect of the idler system is that the bike must be single ring only, so the P3 is decked out with SRAM xx1. The rest of the build kit is very ‘South Australian’ with loads of Syntace and Formula gear from Adelaide based EightyOne Spices. We’re particularly looking forward to riding the wide Syntace W35 wheels that the bike is equipped with.
Well now we know the theory, it’s time to take the I-Track P3 out for some trail time! Let’s see how one man’s project translates from the drawing board to the dirt.